Hezbollah forces participating in Ghouta massacre
Hundreds of the Lebanese organization's fighters have been taking part in the Assad army's onslaught on rebel forces in the eastern suburbs of Damascus following direct orders from Iran; to avoid criticism, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah has been hiding the fighters' participation in the battles from their families.
The Shiite Lebanese organization has been forced to dispatch fighters to the Ghouta area following orders received from Major-General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force and "the high Iranian commissioner" in Syria.
At the same time, Soleimani has eased the conditions of Iranian fighters in Syria by providing them with the status of "advisors" and "combat trainers" and sparing them from being sent to the front.
Local reporters revealed Sunday that the Hezbollah fighters are gathered in the al-Makr base in the Damascus suburbs and are being sent to back the Syrian infantry forces and the Shabiha force, the Syrian regime's thugs, without knowing that they will eventually reach Ghouta.
According to estimates, some 3,000 Hezbollah fighters have been sent to the military base in the Damascus suburbs in recent weeks.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed in the onslaught on the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus since it began three weeks ago with a withering bombardment, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. The dead include 227 children and 154 women.
Furthermore, more than 100 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in exchanges of fire between the rebels and Syrian army forces in the area.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has been hiding the fighters' participation in the Ghouta massacre from their families to avoid strong opposition and criticism over the decision to send Hezbollah fighters on a dangerous mission beyond Lebanon's borders.
On Sunday, the Syrian army broke apart the rebel enclave in eastern Ghouta, cutting off two major towns from the rest of the area, state media said, after a fierce battle waged under cover of an unrelenting bombardment.
State television on Sunday broadcast from the eastern Ghouta town of Mudeira, which state television and a war monitor said the army had captured to link up with units on the other side of the enclave.
A military media unit run by Hezbollah, said the army had also entirely surrounded the town of Douma.
Douma's local council said Monday the city faces a “catastrophic” situation as it becomes the main haven for thousands of people fleeing advances by government forces into eastern Ghouta.
Thousands of families are now sheltering in open streets and public gardens as existing basements and shelters are already overcrowded, the opposition-run Douma local council said.
“After more than 20 days of a barbaric campaign ... this has led to a deterioration of the humanitarian and food situation to a catastrophic level,” it said in a statement.
Burials of the dead at the city cemetery have been suspended due to the intensity of aerial strikes, it added.
Reuters contributed to this report.