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Fight for Aleppo ‘greatest battle’ in Syria: Hezbollah chief

SYRIA-CONFLICT-WEATHER

Beirut: The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said the offensive on the city of Aleppo was the “greatest battle” in Syria, pledging to dispatch more fighters to support Syrian regime forces.

In remarks broadcast on the Shiite group’s Al-Manar television, Hassan Nasrallah said his party would “increase our presence in Aleppo… Because the real, strategic, greatest battle is in Aleppo and the surrounding area.”

He spoke at a commemoration event for Mustafa Badreddine, a Hezbollah commander killed in an explosion on May 12 near Damascus international airport.

Hezbollah has intervened in Syria’s complex war on behalf of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and has dispatched thousands of fighters to Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs provinces, among others.

Aleppo city — once Syria’s economic hub — in particular has seen an uptick in violence over the past two months between government forces in the west and rebel groups in the east.

Regime fighters, backed by Hezbollah and government and Russian warplanes, are seeking to close off the last rebel route out of the city.

“We are facing a new wave, or a new phase, of military operations in Syria that will be fought in the north, specifically in the area of Aleppo,” Nasrallah said.

He announced that 26 Hezbollah fighters had been killed in the offensive this month, in a rare admission of casualties for the group.

“Fighting in defence of Aleppo is in defence of the rest of Syria, of Damascus. It’s in defence of Lebanon and Iraq and Jordan,” Nasrallah said via videolink.

“This is why it is our duty to be in Aleppo — and we were, and we will stay in Aleppo.

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