Syrian opposition groups say Hezbollah’s commander of special operations, Marwan Mughniyeh, was killed Friday in fighting in the Qalamoun mountains, on the Syrian-Lebanese border.
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Mughniyeh is a cousin of Imad Mughniyeh, the former head of Hezbollah’s military wing who, according to foreign sources, was assassinated by Israel in 2008.
Hezbollah did not respond specifically to Saturday’s report by the coordination committees of the Syrian groups, but released a statement saying that, contrary to some media reports over recent days of a large number of Hezbollah casualties – rebels had claimed more than 40 Hezbollah militants were dead – only three Hezbollah fighters had been killed in the Qalamoun mountains. Their families had been informed and any other report was a lie that was part of psychological warfare, the organization added.
In Lebanon itself, reports in media outlets not identified with Hezbollah confirmed that the Shi’ite organization – accompanied by the Syrian army – is advancing in the Qalamoun region, particularly on a number of strategic hills and mountains, but that it could not be considered an all-out or decisive battle.
According to former senior Lebanese defense officials in editorials in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar, the success of Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the Qalamoun area and around Damascus could be used as a bargaining chip by the Syrian government and Hezbollah in future talks, in light of feelers sent out in Geneva recently that are expected to continue until mid-June, in preparation for negotiations over finding a resolution to the civil war.