September 17, 2014
Southern Suburbs, Beirut, Lebanon
A wounded Hezbollah fighter, fresh from battle against IS in Syria, gives an exclusive interview discussing the state of Hezbollah in Syria, the battle against IS and Nusra, his opinion about the American strikes against IS, and Hezbollah's readiness for a new war with Israel.
The fighter who was recently wounded in battle against IS and Nusra in the Qalamoun mountains describes human wave attacks by IS and Nusra and the military logistics of Hezbollah's fight in Syria.
The fighter's voice has been altered to protect his identity.
Q: Can you give us your code name?
A: My name is Hussein.
Q: We know that you were recently on a frontline, and you were injured, and you just returned [home]. If it is not confidential, can you tell us which frontline you were on?
A: In Qalamoun.
Q: People hear that there are battles in Qalamoun, but of course as a person on the frontline, you know more. Tell us who you are fighting in Qalamoun. Who is the enemy in Qalamoun?
A: Jabhat Al Nusra, ISIS, of course half of them are foreigners: Saudis, Kuwaitis, Afghanis, Lebanese. It is a mix.
Q: Do you have an idea about how many [ISIS/Nusra] fighters there are?
A: There are around 12,000 to 7,000, and they are constantly increasing in number.
Q: So there is still an influx [of Nusra/ISIS fighters] from Syria?
A: Yes, the majority are coming from Arsal, even though this [route] is now supposed to have been controlled [by the Lebanese Armed Forces], the influx from Arsal.
Q: From your close quarters engagement and fighting with them, how trained are they?
A: They have high capabilities, but their way of attacking, they come in huge numbers. For example, and this is causing us some losses, if we have a position that can withstand the attack of a 100 fighters, you would find 600 fighters attacking us, and this is causing losses for us.
Q: And their arms?
A: Like our weapons. Cornets, 23mm guns, 14.5 mm guns, 57mm guns, grad rockets, of course they are using grad rockets. [They use] traditional battle weapons. They have canons, mortars, and rockets. They mostly rely on snipers. When they initiate an attack, they would have around 100 snipers spotting and providing covering fire. So the battles are very hard.
Q: Is The Resistance [Hezbollah] getting any military support from the Syrian Army?
A: Some air support, but while fighting [on the ground], there is not supposed to be any Syrian army members.
Q: When your group is fighting, are the orders coming from The Resistance or the Syrian army?
A: For The Resistance, the orders 100% from The Resistance. The leadership is from The Resistance. The orders come from the The Resistance’s group commanders. There is a field commander, there is a military commander on the ground, and there is a commander higher than him in the operations room. The Resistance only. Sometimes if we need anything from the Syrian army, we give them the coordinates and they hit the location [from the air].
Q: How intertwined are the front lines [between ISIS/Nusra and Hezbollah]?
A: Very intertwined. There can be areas where there is 500m distance between us, sometimes 300m, or 200m. You may get surprised by them in some areas. At times they may not be prepared for us and we launch a surprise attack on them. We do infiltration operations and use explosive charges. And spotting is constant, naturally; we know who we want.
Q: What do you remember from the day you were injured?
A: They launched a massive attack on us. Some men with us were martyred, and some were wounded. Then we our backup arrived. When the injury happened, I was still able to fight until the medics came and we fixed the situation. I stayed on the ground for a while until more [Hezbollah] groups came and helped us. Then the medics evacuated us. That is all I remember from the battle, but it was a massive attack. You have to consider they were around 2000 members. This is how they attack, they come in waves and they don’t let you rest. Attack after attack, attack after attack, attack after attack. And they don’t care how many of their men die; those [Nusra/ISIS] fighters who flee the battle get killed [by their commanders] when they return [to their base].
Q: What did you feel when you were wounded? What was the first thought to go through your head? Did you know how serious your injury was? What did you feel?
A: I felt some pain. When I first was wounded, I did not feel anything, but the hit was hot. Then it became harsh. After 15 minutes, I was not able to move properly, so I became still and I said the Shahada [a mantra used to declare one’s faith in Islam]. This [martyrdom/death] is the reason we are coming here.
Q: Where were you injured?
A: In my back
Q: Was it mortar shrapnel or a bullet?
A: No, it was an M16 bullet. A sniper.
Q: How do you perceive the “Takfiri” [Extremist] enemy in front of you?
A: I perceive him as the enemy of all humanity, and fighting him is a duty.
Q: Do you feel that there is a possibility of negotiating with these “Takfiri” groups, or with Free Syrian Army groups, if there are any left?
A: With the Free Syrian Army, maybe at some point. However, with Jabhat Al Nusra, and ISIS in particular, there is no possibility. No possibility at all.
Q: Is this a battle until the end?
A: It is a battle until the end and we are with fighting them in Lebanon before they spread.
Q: How long are you staying here to rest?
A: For now, I will stay here for no less than 2 months to recover. I cannot go back [to the frontline] before 2 months.
Q: Are you excited about going back to the frontline?
Q: Can you give me an estimated number of The Resistance fighters?
A: The thing with The Resistance is that I cannot give you a number. Each unit knows what it has. For example, I do not know what there is in another unit. In Hezbollah, each team is on its own, each unit on its own. One unit does not know what the other unit has. But I can tell you that we have our weight up [in Syria] and that we have not forgotten Israel.
Q: In your opinion, is Hezbollah ready for a two front war?
A: The amount of men fighting [on the Israeli front] has not doubled, but tripled the amount who were fighting in the July War [2006 War with Israel]. They [the fighters on the Israeli front] do not know what is going on in Syria, their job is there [on the Israeli front].
Q: So they [the fighters] are separated?
A: They are separated.
Q: How ready is The Resistance?
A: Since 2006 until now, The Resistance has always been ready and is ready for any war at any time, and on all fronts.
Q: Did any of your comrades get martyred while you were near them?
A: Of course
Q: Can you tell us about an incident?
A: A man [Hezbollah fighter] was martyred, and he was telling me, “send my regards to my mother, this is how I was martyred”. I told him not to be afraid and I comforted him, but the bombardment was very heavy. I moved him to another place and we waited with him until the aid came, but he was already martyred. And of course I sent his regards to his mother and I gave her his scarf with his blood.
Q: When one of the men with you gets martyred, do you feel that this encourages the rest to fight or does it cause some sort of frustration?
A: Our resolve is always strong for a simple reason. No one hit me on my hand to become a fighter. I feel am threatened here in Lebanon. We are seeing what is happening in Iraq, we saw what happened in Syria. These people have no mercy for anyone. No one is forcing us to go fight. On the contrary, there are many who are told to stay here because there is no need for them to go fight. I can assure you that if the Sayyed [Hassan Nasrallah] calls for a war, we will have 300,000 fighters in a matter of hours.
Q: Is there any place where you wish things were better? Logistically or artillery wise, or maybe more orders?
A: We are doing what we are capable of doing. On the contrary, we have the best food, the best weapons, the best training and the best morale. We know who we are fighting. We know that we have no blood on our hands, we are exonerated in this world from that. We have no problems from that aspect and we are very comfortable. The more blood we lose, the stronger we get.
Q: We heard recently that an international alliance was born to attack ISIS targets. In your opinion, can we consider Hezbollah and the United States as having an intersection of interests?
A: There is no intersection at all. ISIS is a creation of America. Israel made ISIS to get to where we are now and they were not able to succeed. I think this is another link in the July War [2006 War with Israel] chain, and God willing, we will break it.
Q: If there is a message you would like to tell the people listening to you, what message would you like to send?
A: We are victorious, as God is one, and I would like to reassure [our solidarity with] all of humanity and all of its sects. For ISIS, all sects are its enemies, even the Sunni. Anyone who saw what is going on in Iraq, in Mosul, how they are walking the streets, shooting people right and left, without knowing their identity or nationality or to which sect they belong. All they do is kill and destroy, and it is a duty to fight them. We will win and God will make us victorious because we are right.