Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah will remain in Syria as long as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants it there, the group’s leader said on Friday, defying renewed US and Israeli pressure to force Tehran and its allies to quit the country.
“I will tell you that if the whole world comes together to force us to leave Syria, they will not be able to evict us,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address, adding that only the Syrian leadership could ask them to leave.
Israel has repeatedly struck Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria, saying they must leave the country, with which it shares a border. Washington has also demanded that Iran and forces it back quit.
Alongside Russia, Iran-backed forces in Syria have helped Assad drive rebels from the country's biggest cities and reclaim swathes of the eastern deserts from ISIS.
Russia has recently called for all non-Syrian forces to leave southern Syria, a statement seen as partly aimed at Iran, as well as at US forces in a base near the Iraqi border.
Senior Syrian officials have said they want to recapture the rebel-held areas in the southwest near the border with Israel. Israeli strikes in Syria are partly aimed at keeping Hezbollah and other Iran-backed forces from its border.
This week, a Russian troop deployment near the border with Lebanon caused friction with Iran-backed forces there including Hezbollah, a rare case of Assads' allies acting out of sync with each other, though it was soon resolved.
In his speech Nasrallah mocked the idea that US, Israeli or Gulf pressure was forcing a wedge between Russia and Iran on Syria.
Hezbollah media unit says US-led coalition hit Syrian army positionsWarplanes from the US-led coalition targeted two Syrian army positions in the ... Middle East
Sanctions on Hezbollah a reminder of what may unfold for LebanonThe recent Lebanese parliamentary elections was not merely an occasion for ... Middle East Opinion
UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military activityUN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling on Hezbollah not to engage in ... Middle East
Israeli security and the consolidation of Hezbollah's influence in LebanonStability on the northern borders of Israel is the key objective of Israeli policy ... Middle East Opinion