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Former US-backed rebels in Syria joining Hezbollah: report

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 file photo, relatives and comrades pray as they surround the Hezbollah flag-draped coffins of Shiite fighters who were killed in Syria, during a rally to mark the 13th day of the Shiite mourning period of Muharram, in
AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari, File
The number of full-time Hezbollah fighters in Syria is estimated at around 25,000.

Former U.S.-backed rebels are joining Iranian ally Hezbollah forces in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Some 2,000 fighters have joined up with the Lebanese-based militant group in Syria, receiving monetary compensation for their allegiance.

The fighters apparently lost funding from the US last year, according to a former rebel commander and were told in June not to expect support from the US should they choose to battle against Assad’s regime.

“Go to Russia, go to the regime, go to Iran—that was the message,” Mr. Rayman said, according to the Journal, after commanders in the south received whatsapp messages from the US embassy in the Jordanian capital not to go into battle against Assad with “the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us.”

The feeling of betrayal along with the promise of some $250 monthly salary from Hezbollah, greater than what the Syrian army pays.

The number of full-time Hezbollah fighters in Syria is estimated at around 25,000.

“We are aware of regime and allied forces recruiting former opposition members in the wake of reconciliation agreements in Southern Syria,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said, referring to reconstruction agreements of Syria after a seven-year civil war that has claimed an estimated 350,000 lives.

Delil souleiman (AFP)

The United States has voiced its opposition to Iran’s presence in Syria, following the lead of Israel, which has been determined to prevent further entrenchment of Iranian-backed forces, in particular on its northern border with southern Syria, as well as weapons transfers to Hezbollah.

Alleged Israeli air strikes in Syria over the last five months have killed some 140 people from Iran's military forces and allied militias, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an estimate released Monday.

Israel and the US have also enlisted the diplomatic support of Russia to hinder Iranian activity in the region.

But the former rebel commander who previously fought alongside US forces said that “Russia pushing Iran out is an illusion. It can’t rely on the Syrian army.”

Neither Israel nor Hezbollah commented, the Journal reported, while the US merely acknowledged the situation.  

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