This video circulating in Lebanon was uploaded to YouTube on Dec. 30, 2012 by “Saydanas,” who appears from previous uploaded material to be an Iraqi Shiite who follows the Sadrist line.
The 4 minute 5 second video carries footage of fighters in combat stances, firing AK-47 rifles, sniper rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades, interspersed with iconic Shiite images. The film is set to a backdrop of a stirring martial song “O Zeinab.”
One shot shows five uniformed fighters armed with an assortment of weapons sitting on a street with a caption reading “the resting place of the fighters who are defending the holy site of Zeinab.” The film concludes with the caption “produced and directed by the unknown soldier.”
Evidence of HezbollahThere is no mention of Hezbollah in the film and it is not possible to confirm that the militants shown are from the Lebanese organization. But there are small clues suggesting that the fighters belong to Hezbollah, or at least have received training from the organization. For example, most of the fighters featured hold the AK-47 by the magazine when firing rather than the wooden grip beneath the barrel, a Hezbollah method that is supposed to allow them to swing the weapon more quickly. Another hint is that the fighters fire their AK-47s in semi-automatic mode rather than fully automatic, a technique taught to Hezbollah combatants to improve accuracy and save ammunition.
Although the faces are blurred out to prevent identification (another Hezbollah trait), they appear to range in age from late 20s to mid 30s, conforming to reports that most of the Hezbollah men deployed to Syria are combat veterans rather than raw recruits.
Sayyida Zeinab has become an important battleground in the ongoing struggle for Damascus. It represents a wedge of regime-controlled territory in southern Damascus where rebel forces are attempting to form a homogenous opposition belt extending through the northern, eastern, and southern suburbs. Sayyida Zeinab also holds a significant emotional appeal for Shiites given the presence of the shrine which served as the inspiration for the stirring combat video.
“I think Sayyida Zeinab is really important to Iran, even beyond the current fight,” says Joseph Holliday, a senior research analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “Certainly it has huge operational significance right now … the neighbourhood is an island of regime control in Damascus' southeast.”
A Western diplomat with contacts within the regime and opposition confirmed that Hezbollah militants were fighting in south Damascus. He added that if Sayyida Zeinab were to fall, “the FSA would be one big step closer to having jumping off positions for an attack on the city center.” The diplomat adds: “It could be quite a crucial battle with all those Hezbollah around."
Tags: Hezbollah, Iraq, Iran, Assad, Syria, Assad, sunni, shia, FSA, Al-Nusra, Front, Islam, Tafkfiri
Location: Damascus, Damascus Governorate, Syria (load item map)
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