BEIRUT, LEBANON (9:20 A.M.) – Hezbollah’s entry in the Syrian War began six-years-ago when they led the offensive to help the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) retake the strategic border crossing at Al-Qusayr.
Prior to Hezbollah’s intervention, the Syrian Arab Army had been bogged down at several fronts, including rural Homs, Aleppo, Damascus, and Deir Ezzor.
At the time of the Al-Qusayr offensive in the Spring of 2013, the Lebanese border with Syria’s Qalamoun Mountain region had been fully under the control of the rebels, making it nearly impossible for the Syrian government to stop the arms flow to the militants around Damascus and Homs.
Furthermore, Lebanese militants from Tripoli, ‘Akkar, and ‘Arsal were wreaking havoc on the government’s positions along Lebanon’s borders with Homs and Damascus; this would ultimately lead to airstrikes from the Syrian Air Force on areas like Wadi Khaled.
By Spring 2013, it became clear that the Syrian military was in need of assistance along the Lebanese border because the situation around the capital, in particular East Ghouta, needed more attention.
With their final preparations made for the Al-Qusayr and Talkalakh offensives at the end of March, Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army’s 3rd, 4th, and 11th divisions, alongside the Republican Guard, began their push to retake these key border crossings from the Free Syrian Army, Liwaa Al-Tawhid, and Jabhat Al-Nusra.
At the start of the two-month-long battle, clashes were fierce between the opposing sides, but little was gained.
However, this would change towards the end of April when Hezbollah and the Syrian Arab Army were able to wear out the rebel forces and begin moving towards the Lebanese border.
The Syrian Army and Hezbollah would ultimately take hold of both Al-Qusayr and Talkalakh in June, forcing the rebels to scatter into the Qalmoun Mountain region.
Once Al-Qusayr and Talkalakh were secured, Hezbollah shifted their attention to the western slope of the Qalamoun Mountains, which, at the time, was mostly under the control of Jabhat Al-Nusra.
Similar to the Al-Qusayr offensive, Hezbollah would lead the operation, with support from the Syrian Army’s 3rd Division and Republican Guard, to capture the key towns of Yabroud and Al-Nabk.
At the time, the Syrian Army had also lost the ancient Christian city of Ma’aloula, which was later descrated by Jabhat Al-Nusra after they kidnapped several nuns.
The Syrian Army and Hezbollah would ultimately retake Ma’aloula, Yabroud, and Al-Nabk after several weeks of fighting.
This was the first phase of Hezbollah’s Qalamoun offensive; its second phase would begin in 2015 and the last phase in Lebanon in 2016.