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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2006, 18:24 GMT 19:24 UK
Hezbollah's helping hands in Syria
By Jon Leyne
BBC News, Damascus

View of central Damascus
Support in Damascus crosses religious barriers, the contact says

We were told it was a secret office, though we did not have much trouble finding it for ourselves.

The man behind the desk never gave us his name, but he seemed to be a key figure in Hezbollah's support network in Syria.

He would not let us film the office, or give its location. He said he was afraid the Israelis might attack.

But this is where, apparently, they co-ordinate fund-raising in Syria for the Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

Hezbollah banner

Our contact told us there had been a big increase in the money raised since the beginning of the current fighting, and particularly after many civilians were killed in the attack on Qana at the weekend.

Many people are coming to us to volunteer to come and fight in Lebanon
Hezbollah official

He told us they were getting support, not just from the Shia Muslim community, from which Hezbollah comes, but also from Sunni Muslims and Christians. "Liberal people around the world are supporting the resistance," he said.

The Hezbollah official also insisted the Syrian government was happy with their presence - a claim supported by the Hezbollah banner displayed openly outside the building.

"Many people are coming to us to volunteer to come and fight in Lebanon," he said. But they were being turned away, he explained, because Hezbollah already had enough fighters in Lebanon.

I asked whether they could still get supplies through to Lebanon. "No answer," he said.

What about President Bush's aim to weaken Hezbollah? "He doesn't understand the people," argued our contact. "We will never be weakened.

"For Hezbollah, fighting is not about weapons or guns, it is with the heart and soul."

Nasrallah T-shirts

He was equally withering about Arab governments, who he said had betrayed Hezbollah. And he insisted the current ceasefire plan being negotiated by the Americans would not be successful.

Close to the office, street vendors sell rows of T-shirts, displaying pictures of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.

Outside one of Damascus' smartest restaurants, the yellow flag of Hezbollah is plastered, incongruously, across the back window of a shining, new, black Range Rover.

There are even collecting boxes for Hezbollah in some mosques.

If the aim of the current fighting is to isolate and undermine Hezbollah, here in Syria it seems to be having precisely the opposite effect.

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