Lebanon-based Hezbollah has been withdrawing its fighters from much of the Syrian territories moving them to areas near the Lebanese border, sources within Syria said.
The Shia-dominated group, which is backed by Iran, redeployed its troops to new areas within the Qalamoun district in the countryside around Damascus in south-western Syria, as the majority of its forces withdrew from other areas in the country.
The movement on troops and logistics was finally confirmed by Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in a television interview on Friday. He said that the group has reduced the presence and numbers of its fighters within the country since 2013.
In the interview with Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV channel, he revealed: "We are still present in all the places where we used to be; we are still there but there is no need to be there in large numbers, as long as there are no practical necessities for that." He added that the primary reason for the shifting of forces was that the Syrian regime "recovered greatly and found that today it does not need us.""We have redeployed and re-positioned our forces," he said, clarifying that "all dealing with the Syrian file has nothing to do with the [US] sanctions or financial austerity measures."
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Nasrallah's confirmation follows weeks of speculation by numerous sources and media outlets on the issue, citing reports of the transport of logistics and troops. The latest of the reports was one released yesterday by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which stated that reliable sources had witnessed Hezbollah transporting fighters with heavy weapons consisting of short and long range missiles and heavy machine guns, and took up a new position in the hillside area overlooking the town of Flita, around 100 kilometres north of Damascus. It then set up barricades and storage areas where they could hide the weapons and vehicles in the caves and trenches which were already dug in mountainous areas there.
SOHR added that Hezbollah also occupied an entire residential building beside a mosque in Al-Qa'aa neighbourhood in the nearby city of Yabroud where it raised its flags, along with various other areas in which it set up military headquarters.
Throughout the eight-year conflict that has ravaged Syria, Hezbollah has been fighting alongside the Syrian regime forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad, which has in turn been in an alliance with Russia and Iran against the various opposition groups in the country.