FSA investigates residents’ claims of chemical weapons’ use in Qusayr

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Some residents in Syria’s flashpoint town of Qusayr have said the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, was using artillery shells containing fatal Mustard Gas in the area, spokesperson of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) Louay Almokdad told Al Arabiya on Saturday.

His statement follows reports by activists that Hezbollah, along with forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have been using chemical weapons against the armed opposition and residents in Syria.

Almokdad said that the FSA is still “investigating the reports” before it makes an official announcement. However, he added that there have been cases of asphyxiation, a symptom of Mustard Gas inhalation, which may indicate the use of chemical weapons.

Opposition sources have told Al Arabiya that at least nine people were killed in clashes between the Lebanese militant group and Syrian rebels in the border town of Qusayr. Activists have previously said that Hezbollah was leading the fight in the area.

Hezbollah denies taking part in Syria’s two-year conflict – which has killed at least 70,000 people, according to the U.N. However, the group – an ally of the Assad regime – has held regular funerals of Hezbollah fighters, who – it said – were killed serving their “jihadi duties.”

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said earlier this week that Syria’s friends would not let Assad’s embattled regime fall.

“Syria has true friends in the region who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of the United States, Israel and ‘takfiri’ groups,” Nasrallah said, referring to Sunni Muslims fighting to overthrow Assad.

The Hezbollah chief’s comments were the strongest indication yet that his group was ready to get more substantially involved to rescue Assad’s government.

Nasrallah also said that his fighters had a duty to protect the holy Shiite shrine of Sayida Zeinab in southern Damascus.

“If the shrine is destroyed, things will get out of control,” Nasrallah said, citing the 2006 bombing of the Shiite al-Askari shrine in the Iraqi city of Samarra.

In response to the Hezbollah chief’s recent statements, Almokdad said that Shiites and the Sayida Zeinab shrine have existed in Syria for hundreds of years without the Lebanese group’s protection.

“No one tasked Hezbollah, Iran or Assad to protect the Shiite shrine. Hezbollah is using these sectarian excuses to drag Lebanese youth into the Syrian conflict,” Almokdad said.

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