Hezbollah leads fight in strategic Syrian mountain range

center_img Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement “The situation is better than perfect,” one smiling Hezbollah fighter said, speaking along with others anonymously as part of the conditions Hezbollah set to allow AP journalists to make the trip.Insurgents appear to have left their camps in a hurry. Groceries, medicines and other supplies littered their camps. At a Hezbollah position, fighters installed a 130 mm cannon pointed deeper into Syria. Wooden ammunition boxes nearby bore Persian words — a sign of the support of Iran, a major benefactor of both Hezbollah and Assad.Shelling could be heard in the distance, which Hezbollah fighters attributed to clashes around Syria’s Barouh mountain to the north. Two giant Hezbollah bulldozers ground out a sand road on one of the region’s mountains.Some 3,000 militants are in the Qalamoun region, almost equally split between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, a Hezbollah commander recently said in Beirut. He said Hezbollah and Syrian troops surround the Qalamoun from the north, the east and the south, as well as part of the west, squeezing the Islamic militants who remain.The total area of the Qalamoun being contested is about 1,000 square kilometers (386 square miles) — of which 340 square kilometers (131 square miles) lie in Lebanon and are under militants’ control. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a harsh critic of Hezbollah, has said Lebanon is not responsible for the group’s actions.“Only Hezbollah is responsible for the repercussions of its involvement in the war at the service of” Assad, said Hariri, who lives in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia and France.But others disagree. Christian politician Karim Pakradouni told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station Sunday that “the battle should be carried out no matter how much it costs because it will end terrorism in Lebanon.”“The Qalamoun battle protects Lebanon’s national security,” he said.___Follow Bassem Mroue on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bmroue.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility A team of Associated Press journalists traveling with Hezbollah into Syria found smiling Hezbollah fighters proudly showing newly dismantled booby traps and food quickly left behind by the Sunni insurgents as commanders promised further advances they say protect Lebanon. But in Lebanon, worries persist that Hezbollah’s battlefield successes only further entangle the tiny country in Syria’s violence, risking attacks back home as well.The Qalamoun Mountains are on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon. They tower near Syria’s capital, Damascus, and linking that base of Assad’s power to the coast, an enclave of his Alawite sect, an off-shoot of Shiite Islam.But the Sunni militants of the local al-Qaida chapter called the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, have been dug into the terrain for years.Although Hezbollah officials say a full-blown assault to recover Qalamoun hasn’t started, Hezbollah fighters in recent days have captured large areas and strategic hills. On Thursday, Hezbollah fighters attacking from the fields of the Syrian border town of Assal al-Ward met comrades on the offensive from the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Brital. Four benefits of having a wireless security systemlast_img read more