Hizballah forces went on alert Thursday, Feb. 21, upon the expiry of a 48-hour ultimatum slapped down by Syrian rebels to halt the Lebanese group’s military support for Bashar Assad – in particular, its artillery and mortar backing for Syrian troops from bases in Lebanon.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that relevant to this chain of events is the Syrian claim that its anti-aircraft missiles downed an Israeli drone Wednesday over the Lebanese village of Deir al-Aachayer in the Rashaya region.
Those events were touched off by the onset in Moscow of preparations for a political process between Syria’s warring parties for determining the country’s future. Representatives of Bashar Assad and the Syrian opposition will be facing each other under the Russian aegis, but Hizballah and Israel are also involved and the Lebanese group is bidding for a strong voice in the process on three issues:
1. Will the Hizballah-ruled Lebanese Beqaa Valley continue to serve Assad and his army as their strategic hinterland?
2. Will the Syria-based Hizballah units, especially those securing the Shiite villages around Homs, stay there under accords reached between Assad and the rebels?
3. Will the ceasefire deals on which talks are due to begin soon in Moscow apply to Hizballah?