The Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah has confirmed that its members are in Syria fighting on behalf of the government, United Nations human rights investigators said on Thursday.
There are also reports that Iraqi Shias are coming to fight in Syria, and Iran confirmed in September that its Revolutionary Guards are in Syria providing assistance, the independent investigators led by Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro said in their latest 10-page report.
The confirmation of Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian civil war heightens concerns that the regime may pass chemical weapons to the terrorist group. Earlier in December, Israel’s ambassador to Washington Michael Oren warned that Israel will act if Syria passes chemical weapons into Hezbollah’s hands.
“We have a very clear red line about those weapons passing into the wrong hands,” Oren told Fox News. “Were those weapons to pass into the wrong hands, into Hezbollah’s hands for example, that would be a game changer for us.”
According to the UN report, the war in Syria has become divided across sectarian lines, increasingly pitting the ruling Alawite community against the majority Sunnis, with foreign fighters assisting both sides.
“As battles between government forces and anti-government armed groups approach the end of their second year, the conflict has become overtly sectarian in nature,” it said.
Syrian government forces have increased their use of aerial bombardments, including shelling of hospitals, and evidence suggests that such attacks are “disproportionate,” they said. The conduct of hostilities by both sides is “increasingly in breach of international law,” they added.
“Feeling threatened and under attack, ethnic and religious minority groups have increasingly aligned themselves with parties to the conflict, deepening sectarian divides,” the report said.
Most of the “foreign fighters” filtering into Syria to join rebel groups, or fight independently alongside them, are Sunnis from other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, the UN investigators said, reporting on their findings after their latest interviews conducted in the region.
The UN report covers the period between September 28 and December 16.
“As the conflict drags on, the parties have become ever more violent and unpredictable, which has led to their conduct increasingly being in breach of international law,” it said.