France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday some 3,000 to 4,000 fighters from Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah were currently battling alongside regime troops in Syria.
“Regarding the Hezbollah militants present in the conflict, numbers vary between 3,000 and 10,000. Our estimate is around 3 to 4,000,” the minister told the foreign affairs committee at France’s lower house National Assembly.
“When you have fighters who are heavily armed and who are ready to die and number several thousands, it makes a huge difference,” he said.
“There have been changes. On Assad’s side there has been a reinforcement ... the total involvement of Iran, Hezbollah’s involvement, the fact that the Russians continue to furnish arms,” he said.
Fabius said although the majority of the fighters were Syrian, they were often led by Iranians.
Syria’s regime is dominated by the minority Alawite community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while the majority of the population are Sunnis.
Iran-backed Hezbollah sent almost 1,700 fighters to the strategic town of Qusayr more than a week ago to support the regime’s assault on the rebel stronghold.
Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah has promised his fighters will help deliver “victory” in the battle, seen as pivotal in Syria’s drawn out civil war in which more than 94,000 people have died.
More than 94,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian conflict which broke out after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired democracy protests that erupted in March 2011.