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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Christians joining forces with Muslim group, Hezbollah, to fight against jihadists

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, sleep on the ground at Bajed Kadal refugee camp, southwest of Dohuk province, August 23, 2014 


An Iran-backed Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah, classified for many years by U.S. Intelligence as a terrorist organization, is training Christians to fight ISIS in Lebanon.

Surprisingly, the Middle Eastern Christians say their new and unlikely allies "accept us as we are."

Citing Lebanese sources, Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin says Christian villages in the Bekaa Valley area of Lebanon are forming militias to join Hezbollah fighters already engaging ISIS and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra Front in the Syrian Qalamoun mountains opposite villages in central and eastern Bekaa.

Christian Post reports that Rifaat Nasrallah, a Catholic businessman who is part of the militias fighting ISIS in Ras Baalbek, discussed the alliance with Hezbollah in an International Business Times report last month.

"We're in a very dangerous situation," he said. "The only people who are protecting us are the resistance of Hezbollah. The only one standing with the army is Hezbollah. Let's not hide it anymore."
Nasrallah said Hezbollah does not expect its allies to convert to Islam or create an allegiance to the group's ideals.

"They accept us as we are," he said. "They do not impose on us anything. When there's an occasion, they come to our children's birthdays. The people here accept that Hezbollah comes and helps."
This unlikely alliance between Christians and Hezbollah is a far cry from the adversarial relationship depicted between the two groups in the region.

According to the IB Times report, however, the alliance is one of convenience. Hezbollah is Iran's strongest proxy in that area of Lebanon and has been a key factor in keeping President Bashar Assad's regime in power after four years of the Syrian war. Protecting Ras Baalbek is a priority for the group because losing it to ISIS would put the surrounding Shiite towns under direct threat.

As a result, Hezbollah has invested heavily in sustaining the relationship with Christians. The group trained Christians in Syria to fight ISIS alongside them, according to a November report from Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar and even paid wages similar to Hezbollah members for Christians joining their ranks.

"We are not speaking of an assumed threat, we are speaking of a real aggression that exists every hour, every day, every night," said Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in a recent speech.

He explained that armed groups have launched continuous attacks inside Lebanese territories while also holding dozens of Lebanese soldiers and police officers hostage, "so we need a permanent solution."


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