The Syrian regime has been claiming for a long time that among the rebels fighting it across the country there are many fighters from oversees, sent by "Syria's enemies" such as Saudi Arabia, Israel or the US. Assad no longer denies his army is aided by thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, who are assisting the Syrian army to ward off the rebels.
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However, reports regarding North Korean officers in the field are relatively rare. In an interview to Asharq Al-Awsat, director of a Syrian human rights center, Rami Abed A-Rachman, said that the number of North Korean officers in Syria is unknown, although there are definitely between 11 and 15 Arabic speaking North Korean officers in Aleppo.
Abed A-Rachman, whose organization releases daily reports on the fighting in Syria since the civil war broke out more than two years ago, said that "the North Korean officers are spread throughout many fronts, including the Syrian Defense Ministry factories southeast of Aleppo and in the regime's forces centers in Aleppo." He claimed that they do not take part in the actual fighting, yet provide the Assad army with logistic support and construct operational plans. "They also supervise the regime's artillery in the region," he said.
This is not the first time links are made between Assad's regime and the North Korean regime, both of which – together with the Iranian regime – have been branded by former US President George W. Bush as members of the "axis of evil". According to foreign reports, North Korea aided Assad in constructing the nuclear reactor that Israel allegedly destroyed in an aerial strike in 2007.
The fierce battles of the rebels against Hezbollah fighters and Assad's forces in the strategically important town of Qusair rage on. Opposition officials said that in the Assad's forces intensified their attacks in order to regain control of the town.
According to the opposition, the humanitarian conditions in the region are getting worse, and Hezbollah and Assad's regime continue to send backup.
Hezbollah fighters man Syrian military's tanks
Meanwhile there has been an escalation in the participation of Hezbollah in the civil war in Syria, as troops affiliated with the Shiite militant group now operate tanks of Bashar Assad's regime army in their battles against insurgent near the rebel-held town of Qusair in western Syria. Arab sources told Ynet this represents a precedent for Hezbollah as it continues to boost its support of the embattled Syrian ruler.
Hezbollah fighters inside a Syrian tank (Photo: Reuters)
Rebel sources said thousands of Hezbollah fighters gathered outside Aleppo Sunday, which was confirmed by Hezbollah.
"Battle over Aleppo started on a small scale, and we are only now entering the game," a senior Hezbollah told The Washington Post speaking from Beirut. "We will go to their strongholds, where they think they are protected. They are going to collapse like a house of cards."
The growing tensions between Hezbollah and rebels trying to oust Assad are linked to a regime offensive against the insurgency forces that control Qusair. Hezbollah's involvement in the battle for control of the strategic town has exposed its growing role in the Syria conflict, prompting rebel threats to target Hezbollah's bases in Lebanon.
Opposition sources were quoted in the Arab press as saying they saw at least 15 additional tanks in the area since the beginning of the week, besides a new delivery of missiles sent by the Syrian military.
The tanks manned by Hezbollah men have not yet crossed the border to Lebanon. The fighting is monitored by the IDF, which regards the vicinities of Qusair as a major route of weapon transfer between Syria and Lebanon.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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