The 17-day assault spearheaded by Lebanon’s Shi`a militia Hizb Allah against the Syrian town of Qusayr set a number of precedents both for Syria’s civil war and for Hizb Allah. The return of Qusayr to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in June 2013—after being held in rebel hands for more than a year—marked the beginning of a broader campaign by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to restore control over key strategic areas that had fallen to rebel hands. The loss of Qusayr was a significant blow to the armed opposition, perhaps more in terms of morale and perception than strategic value, a sentiment reinforced by subsequent regime gains on the ground, continued hesitation by the international community to provide weapons to rebel forces and signs of growing animosity among rebel factions.[1] The battle also marked the first time that Hizb Allah played a significant lead combat role in the Syria war, even though its fighters operated in Syria for at least a year prior to the Qusayr offensive. Furthermore, it was Hizb Allah’s first experience in launching a major offensive operation in an urban environment. Hizb Allah suffered a relatively high number of casualties during the battle, yet the casualty toll and blowback in Lebanon—politically and in terms of security—has not deterred the organization from deploying to other combat theaters in Syria in support of the SAA, underlining its commitment to the trilateral “axis of resistance” with the al-Assad regime and Iran.

This article examines how Hizb Allah and the SAA waged offensive operations in Qusayr, how the anti-Assad rebels sought to defend the town against the assault, and if Hizb Allah’s success in Qusayr will embolden it to escalate militancy elsewhere in Syria. It finds that although Hizb Allah eventually ousted the rebel forces and reclaimed the town with the assistance of air and artillery support from the SAA, the organization lacks the capacity to replicate its Qusayr tactics on a more frequent basis and in larger urban environments across Syria. Since the conclusion of the Qusayr campaign, Hizb Allah has reverted to its previous duty of combat support to regular SAA units in other villages. Nevertheless, that does not preclude Hizb Allah from pursuing similar Qusayr-style operations if the circumstances match the organization’s capabilities.

The Pre-Assault Campaign
Qusayr, a town of approximately 30,000 mainly Sunni residents,[2] lies five miles north of Lebanon’s northern border and 16 miles southwest of Homs, Syria’s third largest city. The terrain around Qusayr is a flat arable landscape of orchards and fields well irrigated by the Assi River.[3] The population of the Qusayr area is a tangled mix of confessions including Sunni, Shi`a, Alawite and Christian.[4] Around four miles west of Qusayr is a belt of small villages, hamlets and farms populated by Lebanese Shi`a. Border controls in this area are traditionally lax, which allow Lebanese and Syrians to move at will across the frontier.[5]

Qusayr’s importance lays in the fact that it served as a logistical conduit for the anti-Assad revolt facilitating the movement of weapons and militants between Lebanon and Homs. Lebanon’s northeast Bekaa Valley is home to a Sunni population, most of which sympathizes with the Syrian opposition. Syrian rebels and Lebanese volunteers infiltrated Syria from Lebanon via the flat arable Masharei al-Qaa district and the adjacent arid mountains to the east.[6] Furthermore, the highway linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coastal port town of Tartus runs between Homs and Qusayr. Rebel control of Qusayr and parts of Homs threatened regime traffic.

The SAA put Qusayr under siege in November 2011, and three months later heavy fighting erupted as Syrian rebels and the SAA fought for control of the town. By July 2012, Qusayr was in rebel hands and sporadic clashes broke out in villages to the west, roughly along a line separating Shi`a- and Sunni-populated villages.

According to Lebanese Shi`a residents of the villages inside Syria, the rebels were attempting to drive them out of their homes to establish a rebel (effectively a Sunni) belt of territory across the top of northeast Lebanon.[7] They also accused the rebels—whom they described as Salafi-jihadis—of killing civilians, looting homes and destroying crops in Shi`a areas.[8] On the other hand, anti-Assad rebels accused Hizb Allah of fighting in territory west and south of Qusayr. On October 2, 2012, Ali Nassif, a top Hizb Allah commander, was killed near Qusayr,[9] an incident that hardened the growing suspicion in Lebanon at the time that the militant group was operating in Syria alongside the SAA.[10] The rebels described the Hizb Allah combatants as “professional” and “tough” and “none of them were under 35-years-old.”[11]

In mid-April 2013, the SAA and Hizb Allah launched a more determined campaign to seize the villages around Qusayr as a prelude to an assault on the town itself. SAA and Hizb Allah forces achieved initial success with the seizure of Tel Nabi Mindo, four and a half miles northwest of Qusayr.[12] The small hill in Tel Nabi Mindo afforded the SAA and Hizb Allah an overview of the surrounding flat terrain.

Reports of the ebb and flow of fighting in the following weeks were often confused and contradictory. Nevertheless, the SAA and Hizb Allah slowly gained ground, capturing villages to the west and southwest of Qusayr. Hizb Allah’s role in the fighting triggered several rocket barrages into the Shi`a-populated Hermel district of Lebanon’s northern Bekaa. On April 14, rockets struck Hawsh Sayyed Ali, Sahlat al-My, Qwak and Qasr in Lebanon, killing two people.[13] More rockets hit the same area on April 21 and April 23.[14] As the SAA and Hizb Allah pushed the rebels back toward Qusayr, the Lebanese Shi`a-populated areas of the northern Bekaa fell beyond the range of the 107mm, 122mm and homemade rockets fired by the anti-Assad rebels from the northeast.[15] The Hermel area, however, was subject to several more rocket salvoes fired from a mountainous area in Syria due east.[16]

By mid-May 2013, the SAA and Hizb Allah had taken control of most of the terrain surrounding Qusayr except for a corridor running north that included the disused Dabaa military airbase, which lay in rebel hands.

Assault Preparations
Qusayr’s defenders were drawn from a broad array of rebel units, many of them local village- or town-based entities that were part of the Farouq Battalions, the largest single faction operating in Qusayr.[17] The Farouq Battalions are one of the largest rebel units in Syria and are a core component of the Syria Islamic Liberation Front, a coalition of rebel factions.[18] They emerged in Homs as a sub-unit of the Khaled bin Walid Brigades but have since expanded across Syria.[19]

The number of rebel units and fighters who fought in Qusayr is unclear. Estimates placed the number of units at around 15, and the total number of fighters was probably less than a few thousand.[20] One estimate given to the author by rebel fighters from Qusayr was between 11,000 and 12,000, figures that appear exaggerated.[21] Another figure cited by a rebel fighter of 2,000 combatants is likely more accurate.[22] The Qusayr Military Council, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Mohieddin al-Zain (also known as Abu Arab), grouped all factions in Qusayr under a single command. The chain of command appeared confused as rebel militants who fought in the battle later gave different names when asked to identify the overall commander of rebel forces in Qusayr.[23] There were reports that members of the al-Qa`ida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra operated in Qusayr, although these reports could not be confirmed.[24] Rebel fighters claimed there were no Jabhat al-Nusra personnel in the town.

The rebels appeared to have been reasonably well-equipped in terms of weapons and ammunition at the beginning of the battle for Qusayr. Their arms stockpile was augmented by the capture of the Dabaa airbase and the seizure of SAA weapons and ammunition.[25] The fighters were armed with an assortment of rifles, the most common being AK-47 variants, RPG-7s, PKC light machine guns, twin-barreled 23mm anti-aircraft guns, a variety of mortars and small caliber artillery rockets (107mm and 122mm).[26]

Rebel fighters undertook extensive defensive preparations in the knowledge that the town would be assaulted by government forces at some point. The town was split into sectors and different units were assigned to their defense.[27] Rebels excavated tunnels and underground bunkers, erected earth barricades across streets, booby-trapped buildings and mined roads.[28] They made homemade explosives that they turned into “belly charge” mines—consisting of dozens of pounds of explosives buried beneath streets and detonated by a command wire—to destroy the SAA’s armored vehicles.

Hizb Allah’s battle plans included splitting the town into 16 operational sectors and assigning code numbers to different objectives and locations.[29] Designating code numbers is standard Hizb Allah practice in which fighters adopt a verbal code system for use over unencrypted radio communications.[30] Hizb Allah was given tactical control of the battle even to the extent of issuing orders to Syrian officers.[31] Hizb Allah’s strength was placed at between 1,200 and 1,700 fighters, most of them older combat veterans and members of the party’s special forces units.[32] One report said that Hizb Allah split its forces into 17 units of 100 men each.[33] During combat operations, however, the units broke down into typical fighting squads of three to five men each.[34]

Initially, each fighter served a seven-day tour on the frontline, but as the battle dragged on the duration was extended to 20 days.[35] Careful reconnaissance was conducted prior to the assault and Hizb Allah’s combat engineers cleared booby traps from buildings.[36]

The Assault
The attack began on May 19, 2013, with a heavy artillery bombardment and airstrikes against Qusayr in the early hours followed by advances of Hizb Allah fighters from the south, east and west backed by SAA troops.[37] The attacking forces made quick gains in the southern end of the town, reaching the town hall. One Syrian opposition activist said that by the end of the first day, SAA and Hizb Allah forces had seized some 60% of the town.[38]

Hizb Allah was expecting a swift victory in Qusayr, but despite the gains of the first hours, the battle grew more protracted as the rebels put up a spirited defense and Hizb Allah suffered unexpectedly high casualties. On May 19, the first day of the offensive, up to two dozen Hizb Allah fighters were reportedly killed in a rebel ambush.[39] The SAA and Hizb Allah slowed the pace of assault, becoming more methodical and ensuring control of each objective before advancing further.[40] One Hizb Allah fighter said they were not fighting meter by meter, but “centimeter by centimeter.”[41] The rebel mortar fire was a serious problem for the attacking force.[42] The small Hizb Allah fighting units pressed ahead to draw as close to the rebel lines as possible in the hope that the rebel mortar fire would cease out of the rebels’ concern that they would hit their own side. Despite Hizb Allah’s engineering teams working to dismantle booby traps and improvised explosive devices (IED), the Hizb Allah fighters avoided doorways and windows and instead blasted holes in the walls of buildings to move around.[43] Some of the IEDs used by the rebels bore similarities to those that Hizb Allah had taught the Palestinian Hamas Movement to build.

The rebel defenders acknowledged the fighting prowess of their Hizb Allah enemies. “They were very fierce fighters,” said one rebel fighter from Qusayr. “You would shoot at them but they kept on coming. They wore headbands with ‘O Husayn’ written on them.”[44] The rebels noted how the Hizb Allah fighters were constantly trying to advance, even under heavy fire, and outflank their positions.[45]

Hizb Allah’s combat units were supported by the SAA’s air and artillery power, and the Lebanese group employed RPG-7s and snipers equipped with Dragunov 7.62mm rifles for close quarters combat.[46] Yet Hizb Allah also had at its disposal an ad hoc short-range rocket system that could deliver a more powerful punch than an RPG-7 while preserving greater accuracy than artillery deployed outside the town. Rebel fighters spoke of Hizb Allah’s ability to destroy specific buildings or entire street barricades with a missile.[47] It later transpired that Hizb Allah used improvised rocket-assisted munitions (IRAMs) consisting of a large explosive charge of undetermined origin boosted by the rocket of a 107mm Katyusha.[48]

As the battle unfolded, the rebels were gradually pushed back into the northern area of Qusayr. Ammunition stocks began to dwindle as did food and water and with it the morale of the defending force. The rebels had received some reinforcements on the second day of the battle when a group reached the town from Bab Amr in Homs.[49] On June 2, a larger group of rebel fighters arrived in Qusayr having traveled from Deir al-Zour in the east and Aleppo in the north.[50] The commander of the Aleppo rebels was Colonel Abdul-Jabber Mohammed Aqidi, the head of the Aleppo Military Council.[51] Yet the additional reinforcements, other than providing a momentary boost to flagging morale in the town, were unable to alter the course of the battle.

On June 3, the 17 rebel commanders held a meeting at which 14 of them voted to retreat from Qusayr.[52] Although they were apparently persuaded to change their minds, morale had declined significantly and the rebels realized that the town could not be held for much longer.[53] The rebels had been pushed into a small area in northern Qusayr—“10,000 people in a space no more than 500 square meters,” as explained by one rebel fighter.[54] A Hizb Allah combatant who fought in Qusayr said, “we squashed them into the northern part of the town and then pinned them down with sniper fire.”[55]

In addition to a shortage of ammunition and deteriorating morale, the rebels could no longer cope with large numbers of wounded and lack of food and water. Rebel fighters described scenes of children forced to drink sewage water, people eating leaves from trees, and wounds rotting due to lack of medicine.[56]

Walid Jumblatt, the paramount leader of Lebanon’s Druze community and an arch critic of the al-Assad regime, intervened with Hizb Allah to seek a safe withdrawal of some 400 wounded militants from Qusayr.[57] Jumblatt’s interlocutor was Wafiq Safa, a top Hizb Allah security official, who said that the party would accept whatever decision was made by the al-Assad regime. The regime refused to negotiate with the rebels in Qusayr, but said there was a known corridor to the north that was open.[58]

The battle concluded early on June 5 when the SAA and Hizb Allah launched a heavy bombardment of the last rebel-held enclave of Qusayr, described by one rebel fighter as the most intense shelling of the entire battle.[59] Rebels, civilians and wounded began streaming north from Qusayr toward the villages of Dabaa and then onto Buwaydah Sharqiyah. Instead of following a “safe” corridor to the villages, however, those fleeing Qusayr allegedly came under withering mortar and machine gun fire.[60] Survivors recounted people being shot around them as they ran through orchards.[61] One rebel recalled crawling through a field, pushing a mortally wounded comrade in front of him as protection against machine gun fire.[62]

Most of the fleeing rebels and civilians avoided the roads and moved on foot around the northeastern corner of Lebanon to the area of Hassia on the Damascus-Homs highway before slipping into Lebanon.[63] Hundreds, possibly thousands, ended up in Arsal, a Sunni populated town in northeast Lebanon that has served as a logistical hub for Syrian rebel groups in Qusayr and Homs to the north and rebel-held areas on the eastern side of the border.[64]

Qusayr: A Test Case for Hizb Allah’s Developing Offensive Tactics
The 17-day battle for Qusayr took longer than Hizb Allah anticipated and caused a relatively high number of casualties.[65] Hizb Allah has not released a tally of its losses, but estimates range between 70 and 120 dead with dozens more wounded.[66] There were scattered reports during the campaign citing SAA and allied militia losses, but an overall total is unknown.[67] The figures suggest that Hizb Allah experienced its highest casualty attrition rate since the 34-day war against Israel in the summer of 2006. The rebels published the names of 431 fighters they said died in the battle, but the true figure is probably higher.[68]

The outcome, however, was inevitable given the logistical resources at the disposal of the al-Assad regime compared to those of the town’s rebel defenders. Qusayr’s relative isolation from other rebel strongholds made it difficult to deliver material and logistical support. Qusayr was also close to Hizb Allah’s supply lines in Lebanon via the Shi`a-populated villages on the Syrian side of the border. These reasons made Qusayr an appropriate test case for Hizb Allah to put its newly-acquired urban warfare skills into practice with the SAA providing key artillery and aerial support.

Since 2006, Hizb Allah has included urban warfare skills in its training program at Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) camps in Lebanon and Iran. In the 1980s and 1990s, Hizb Allah pursued hit-and-run guerrilla-style tactics in a rural environment against Israeli troops then occupying southern Lebanon. The group fought in urban areas during the month-long war with Israel in 2006, but mainly in a defensive rather than offensive capacity. The post-2006 urban warfare training, which includes offensive and defensive tactics, is thought to be preparation for possible commando-style raids into Israel in the event of another war with the country.[69]

Qusayr allowed Hizb Allah to gain experience using these new skills. Furthermore, although the bulk of Hizb Allah combatants in Syria appear to be older combat veterans, a younger, post-2006 generation of recruits have been deployed into battles. The experience accrued in combat and urban warfare should make the organization a more formidable challenge in any future war against Israel, an assessment that has been recognized by the Israeli military.[70]

After Qusayr: The Regime Tips the Balance
During the Qusayr assault, Hassan Nasrallah, Hizb Allah’s secretary general, admitted what by then was common knowledge—his cadres were heavily involved in fighting in Syria. Nasrallah’s acknowledgement and the success at Qusayr paved the way for more open and tangible support by Hizb Allah for the al-Assad regime. In the wake of the Qusayr battle, Hizb Allah’s fighters have been deployed to southern Deraa province, Idlib and Aleppo provinces in the north and in the Damascus suburbs.[71]

The defeat of the rebels in Qusayr has allowed the al-Assad regime to gain ground along the crucial corridor linking Damascus to Tartus and the Mediterranean coast. Furthermore, it had a knock-on effect of compelling the rebel defenders of Tel Kalakh, which lies close to the Homs-Tartus highway, two miles north of the border with Lebanon and 21 miles northwest of Qusayr, to surrender the town in June 2013 to government forces after a two-year siege.[72] The rebels in Tel Kalakh recognized that they could no longer hold out against the SAA given dwindling food supplies and expectations that the fall of Qusayr could be a prelude to a similar assault against them.[73]

Fresh from victory in Qusayr, the SAA turned its attention to regaining the last rebel-held pockets in Homs, a strategically placed transport node. On July 29, the Syrian regime announced that the SAA had seized the central district of Khaldiya in Homs. The retaking of Khaldiya was facilitated by the rebels apparently deciding to “sacrifice” the city to concentrate on holding its ground in northern Aleppo Province and around Damascus.[74]

Yet there are indications that the rebels are planning to mount a counterattack against SAA forces in Qusayr to recapture the town.[75] Lebanese and Syrian rebels say that the units that retreated from Qusayr have regrouped and are located in and around the town of Yabroud in Qalamoun district that lies between Damascus and Homs adjacent to the Lebanese border.[76] Arms supplies have increased following the seizure on August 2 of three SAA arms depots at Danha in the Qalamoun area, which yielded large quantities of anti-tank missiles, including AT-5 Spandrel, Metis-M and AT-14 Kornet.[77] One Syrian rebel fighter said that reconnaissance has been conducted in the Qusayr area and an assault is imminent.[78] The wisdom of such a move might be questioned given the expected fall of Homs and the relative isolation of Qusayr from other rebel-held areas. Furthermore, the rebels deployed in Qalamoun district are expecting a Hizb Allah-led assault against the area once Homs has fallen.[79] Diverting rebels from the Qalamoun area for an attack on Qusayr would weaken their ability to confront a Hizb Allah and SAA assault.

Hizb Allah’s Activities in Syria Still Limited
Although Hizb Allah spearheaded the strike on Qusayr, the party has played more of a support role in its other engagements across Syria. In street fighting in Homs, for example, veteran Hizb Allah fighters command squads of Syrian soldiers, essentially acting as non-commissioned officers (NCO) to the less experienced regular troops.[80]

Hizb Allah does not have the capacity to replicate its role in Qusayr by taking the tactical lead in assaults against major urban areas. This is partly due to a limit on the number of fighters Hizb Allah can afford to deploy to Syria. Despite Hizb Allah’s focus on Syria, Israel remains the paramount threat to the organization, and its confrontation with the Jewish state remains its raison d’être. This was made evident on August 7 when at least two IEDs exploded beside a unit of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who had penetrated Lebanese territory up to a distance of around 400 meters on an as yet undisclosed mission.[81] The IDF unit reportedly fell into a Hizb Allah ambush, illustrating the vigilance that the group continues to exert in its traditional theater of conflict along the Lebanon-Israel border.[82]

Nevertheless, Hizb Allah may be called upon to take the lead in future campaigns to capture isolated towns similarly sized or smaller than Qusayr. One example is Qalamoun district, centered on the rebel-held towns of Yabroud and Nabk. It is the last section of the border with Lebanon open to rebel traffic. Rebels use dirt tracks that wind east and southeast of Arsal through an arid mountainous landscape to move back and forth between Lebanon and Syria.[83] Hizb Allah has conducted reconnaissance of the Yabroud area in preparation for an attack against the rebels.[84] If Qalamoun district falls to the regime, it will effectively seal off rebel support from Lebanon to Syria. Furthermore, and depending on the outcome of the mooted rebel counterattack on Qusayr, it will allow the regime to exert full control over the strategic corridor between Damascus and Tartus.

Nicholas Blanford is Beirut correspondent of The Times of London and the Christian Science Monitor and is a consultant for IHS/Jane’s. He is author of Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel (Random House, 2011) and Killing Mr Lebanon: The Assassination of Rafik Hariri and its Impact on the Middle East (IB Tauris, 2006). He has lived in Beirut since 1994.

[1] Mariam Karouny and Oliver Holmes, “New Front Opens in Syria as Rebels say al-Qaeda Attack Means War,” Reuters, July 12, 2013.

[2] “General Consensus of Population and Housing 2004,” Syria Central Bureau of Statistics, Homs Governorate, undated; Hwaida Saad and Kareem Fahim, “Syrian Forces Chase Rebels Who Fled Fallen Town,” New York Times, June 6, 2013. Some reports place the population at 40,000. See “A Look at the Fighting in Syria’s Town of Qusair,” Associated Press, June 3, 2013.

[3] Rameh Hamieh, “Assi River Basin: Lebanese Farmers Struggle for Survival in Syria,” al-Akhbar, October 27, 2012; Radwan Mortada, “Syria: Turning Point in the Battle of Qusayr,” al-Akhbar, May 20, 2013; Nasser Sharara, “Hezbollah Defends Shiite Villages in Syria War,” al-Monitor, February 20, 2013.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Personal interviews, Syrian rebel fighters, Jdeideh, Arsal, Masharei al-Qaa, Lebanon, May 2012-May 2013.

[7] Personal interviews, Shi`a residents from Safafah village in Syria and Hawsh Beit Ali and Qasr villages in Lebanon, Qasr and Hawsh Beit Ali, Lebanon, October 16, 2012.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Hezbollah Military Commander ‘Killed in Syria,’” BBC, October 2, 2012.

[10] Hizb Allah only fully admitted it was active in Syria in May 2013 after the battle for Qusayr had begun.

[11] Personal interviews, rebels belonging to the Jusiyah Martyrs Brigade (a unit in the Farouq Battalions), Masharei al-Qaa, Lebanon, October 8-9, 2012. See also Nicholas Blanford, “Accusations Mount of Hezbollah Fighting in Syria,” Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 2012.

[12] Tel Nabi Mindo is the site of Kadesh where one of history’s earliest battles with detailed records took place in 1274 BC pitting the Egyptian empire under Ramesses II against the Hittite empire under Muwatalli II.

[13] “2 More Rockets Land in Hermel Town as Lebanon Asks for Arab League Assistance,” Naharnet, April 15, 2013.

[14] Rakan al-Fakih, “Syrian Rebels Step Up Rocket Attacks, Two Hit Hermel,” Daily Star [Beirut], April 22, 2013; “Two Grad Rockets From Syria Land on Outskirts of Hermel,” Naharnet, April 23, 2013.

[15] Numerous videos were posted online showing rebels launching rockets toward Lebanon. For two examples, see and

[16] The Liwa al-Tawhid fired six 122mm Katyusha rockets into the Hermel area on May 28, wounding three people. Judging from a video, the rebel unit was located approximately 12-14 miles due east of Hermel, the outer limit of the 122mm rocket’s range. See

[17] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[18] For details on the Farouq Battalions and the Syria Islamic Liberation Front, see Aron Lund, “The Non-State Militant Landscape in Syria,” CTC Sentinel 6:8 (2013).

[19] Ibid. Also see Joseph Holliday, “Syria’s Maturing Insurgency,” Institute for the Study of War, June 2012.

[20] Abdul Jabber Mohammed Aqidi, head of the Aleppo Military Council, said there were 17 units in Qusayr. See “Interview with Abdul-Jabbar Aqidi,” June 14, 2013, available at Another article cited the names of 15 rebel units. For details, see Alex Rowell, “Qusayr Resisting All-out Attack,” Now Lebanon, May 20, 2013. Various reports placed the number of fighters in the low thousands. See Mariam Karouny, “Syrian Rebels Lose Strategic Town in Boost for Assad,” Reuters, June 5, 2013.

[21] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[22] Personal interview, rebel fighter, northern Lebanon, May 20, 2013.

[23] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[24 ]Radwan Mortada, “Syria: Opposition’s Booby Trap Blueprint for Qusayr,” al-Akhbar, May 23, 2013.

[25] Personal interview, rebel fighter, north Lebanon, May 20, 2013.

[26] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Mona Alami, “Hezbollah Fighter Details Ops in Qusayr,” Now Lebanon, June 4, 2013; personal interview, Hizb Allah combatants, Beirut, June 5, 2013.

[30] For example, see Nicholas Blanford, Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel (New York: Random House, 2011), p. 342.

[31] Personal interview, Hizb Allah combatants, Beirut, June 5, 2013.

[32] Ibid. “Hezbollah Losses in Syria Steep, but Morale High,” Agence France-Presse, May 24, 2013.

[33] “Hezbollah Losses in Syria Steep, but Morale High.”

[34] Personal interview, Hizb Allah combatants, Beirut, June 5, 2013.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid. “A Look at the Fighting in Syria’s Town of Qusair,” Associated Press, June 3, 2013; “Syrian Forces Storm Rebel Bastion of Qusayr,” Agence France-Presse, May 20, 2013.

[38] Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad, “Hezbollah Aids Syrian Military in a Key Battle,” New York Times, May 19, 2013.

[39] Radwan Mortada, “Syria: Qusayr Battle’s Unofficial Story,” al-Akhbar, June 6, 2013.

[40] Personal interviews, Hizb Allah combatants, Beirut, June 5, 2013.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Personal interviews, Hizb Allah combatants, Beirut, June 5, 2013. The Dragunov 7.62mm rifle is the standard sniper rifle used by Hizb Allah.

[47] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013. The author was shown a video recorded on a Hizb Allah fighter’s phone of the IRAM in action.

[48] “DIY Weapons in Syria – Hezbollah Deploys IRAMs in Qusayr,” Brown Moses blog, June 18, 2013.

[49] “Abdel-Jabber and the Commander Abdel-Qadir Give Advice to Hezbollah While in a Resting Area During Their Journey,” May 22, 2013, available at

[50] Ibid.

[51] “Colonel Abdel-Jabber Aqidi’s Message from the City of Qusayr,” June 1, 2013, available at

[52] “Interview with Abdul-Jabbar Aqidi,” June 14, 2013, available at

[53] Ibid.

[54] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[55] Personal interviews, Hizb Allah combatants, Beirut, June 5, 2013.

[56] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[57] Ibid. Lauren Williams, “Twists in Qusair Evacuation Plan Spark Confusion,” Daily Star, June 14, 2013; “PSP Leader Mediates Between Jabhat al-Nusra and Hizbullah,” al-Akhbar, June 4, 2013; Saleh Hodaife, “Rebel Withdrawal from al-Qusayr Result of Deal with Hezbollah,” Now Lebanon, June 5, 2013.

[58] Jean Aziz,  “Qusair Victory Could Prove Fateful for Hezbollah’s Role,” al-Monitor, June 6, 2013; “PSP Leader Mediates Between Jabhat al-Nusra and Hizbullah”; Williams.

[59] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[60] Ibid.; Williams.

[61] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Personal observations and interviews, residents of Arsal, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013.

[65] Mortada, “Syria: Qusayr Battle’s Unofficial Story.”

[66] Ibid. “Hezbollah Losses Laid Bare After Victory in Syrian Town,” Sapa-DPA, June 6, 2013; “Hezbollah Operatives Killed in Syria,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, July 2013.

[67] “The Free Syrian Army is Called to Defend Qoussair,” Le Monde, May 22, 2013.

[68] Mortada, “Syria: Qusayr Battle’s Unofficial Story.”

[69] Personal interviews, multiple Hizb Allah fighters, Lebanon, 2007-2008. In a speech on February 16, 2011, Hizb Allah leader Hassan Nasrallah alluded for the first time to a possible incursion into northern Israel in the event of a war: “I tell the Resistance fighters to be prepared for the day when war is imposed on Lebanon. Then, the Resistance leadership might ask you to lead the Resistance to liberate Galilee.” Also see Blanford, Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel, p. 460.

[70] Yoav Zitun, “Top IDF Officer: Hezbollah Marked Our Artillery Guns,”, August 7, 2013.

[71] Wassim Mroueh, “Analysts See Qusair as First Hezbollah Step in Syria,” Daily Star, June 6, 2013; Jana El-Hassan, “4,000 Hezbollah Fighters Reach Rebel-Held Aleppo: FSA,” Daily Star, June 4, 2013; “Hezbollah Fighters Seen in Daraa Province,”, June 14, 2013; “Jordan Salafists Warn Hezbollah of Advancing to Jordan-Syria Border,” Ammon [Amman], May 14, 2013; Nuha Shabaan, “Rebels say Hezbollah, Iraqi Fighters Flooding into Syria,” USA Today, June 4, 2013.

[72] Patrick Cockburn, “Tel Kalakh: Syria’s Rebel Town that Forged its Own Peace Deal,” Independent, June 25, 2013.

[73] Ibid. Personal interview, Syrian activist from Tel Kalakh, north Lebanon, August 7, 2013; personal interview, Lebanese logistical supporter for the rebels, Akkar Province, Lebanon, August 8, 2013.

[74] Personal interview, European diplomat in contact with the al-Assad regime and Syrian opposition groups, telephone interview, July 11, 2013.

[75] Personal interview, Lebanese logistical supporter for the rebels, Akkar Province, Lebanon; personal interview, Lebanese fighter with the Farouq Battalions, northern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, August 8, 2013.

[76] Ibid.

[77] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, August 3, available at and

[78] Personal interview, Farouq Battalions rebel, Arsal, Lebanon, August 12, 2013.

[79] Personal interviews, multiple rebel fighters from Qusayr, Arsal, Lebanon, June 13, 2013;  personal interview, Farouq Battalions rebel, Arsal, Lebanon, August 3, 2013; personal interview, Lebanese logistical supporter for the rebels, Akkar Province, Lebanon, August 8, 2013.

[80] Personal interview, Hizb Allah fighter, Beirut, July 11, 2013.

[81] Ibrahim al-Amine, “The Lowdown on Hezbollah’s Ambush in South Lebanon,” al-Akhbar, August 8, 2013.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Nicholas Blanford, “Lebanese Brace for Violence if Assad Cuts Off Rebels’ Lifeline,” Times [London], August 5, 2013.

[84] Personal interview, Hizb Allah fighter, Beirut, July 11, 2013.

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