Official: Hezbollah fighters killed in Syria

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“We knew he was a Hezbollah official after it was announced by the group in Lebanon,” Mr. al-Homsi said.

His account could not be independently verified.

Although Hezbollah’s ties to Syria have stayed strong during the uprising, the government’s longstanding relations with the Palestinian militant group Hamas have frayed.

Syria’s state-run media unleashed a scathing attack on the leader of Hamas, accusing him of turning his back on Mr. Assad and describing him as ungrateful and traitorous.

In an editorial aired Monday, Syrian TV said Khaled Mashaal, who pulled Hamas’ headquarters out of Damascus this year, had abandoned the resistance movement against Israel and the United States.

The comments show just how much ties between Hamas and the Syrian regime — once staunch allies — have disintegrated since the uprising began 18 months ago.

The regime’s verbal attack appeared to be prompted by Mr. Mashaal’s decision to take part in a major conference Sunday of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party. Mr. Erdogan has been one of Mr. Assad’s sharpest critics.

Less than two years ago, Syria, Iran, Hamas and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group were part of what they called an “axis of resistance” against Israel and the United States. With Hamas’ departure, they lost a major Palestinian faction that rules the Gaza Strip.

Hamas initially staked out a neutral position toward the uprising, but as the estimated 500,000 Palestinians living in Syria became increasingly outraged over the regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters, Hamas came under pressure for its cozy ties with the government, prompting the group in February to shift its stance and praise Syrians for “moving toward democracy and reform.”

Since then, most Hamas leaders have left Syria for Egypt, where their allies in the Muslim Brotherhood have taken power in elections following the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, has been a strong critic of Mr. Assad, calling his government an “oppressive regime.”

Mr. Mashaal himself shuttered Hamas’ Damascus offices and now spends most of his time in Qatar, the tiny Gulf country that has strongly backed the rebels battling to overthrow Mr. Assad.

In its editorial, Syrian state TV sought to remind Mr. Mashaal, who holds Jordanian citizenship, of when he was expelled from Jordan in 1999 for “illicit and harmful” activities, and how several countries refused to welcome him after he was kicked out.

“Remember when you were a refugee aboard planes. Damascus came and gave you mercy,” the station said. “No one wanted to shake your hand then, as if you had rabies.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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