'Who will pay the price?': Lebanon captives threatened over Hezbollah's Syria role
Al-Nusra Front in Syria on Friday released a video showing nine Lebanese army and police hostages whom it said could pay the price for the Shiite group Hezbollah's military intervention in the Syrian conflict.
The al-Nusra Front video, entitled "Who Will Pay the Price?", shows the abducted Lebanese security personnel condemning Hezbollah, which has fought alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces against rebels in Syria.
More than 35 Lebanese police and soldiers were captured in unprecedented clashes that erupted on 2 August between the country's security forces and jihadists who had crossed the border from Syria.
At least 15 soldiers and 14 policemen are still being held by three groups: al-Nusra Front, the self-styled Islamic State (IS) and Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), a Syrian Islamist rebel movement.
A captured Sunni Lebanese soldier, Ali Sayyed, was beheaded by IS militants, whose sympathisers released an online video last week purporting to show the atrocity.
IS and other militants overran the town of Arsal, near Lebanon’s border with Syria, in clashes early last month following the arrest of a Syrian accused of belonging to an extremist group.
In the footage released on Friday, one of the group of hostages sitting in front of a jihadist banner asks why he must pay the price for Hezbollah's intervention in Syria.
Hezbollah has been instrumental in helping Assad's regime retake several rebel bastions, and its presence in Lebanon's war-ravaged neighbour has sparked anger among Syria's Sunni-majority population.
In the video, another hostage says that if Hezbollah fighters keep battling alongside Assad's men, he "will have our blood on his hands.”
After Sayyed was beheaded, relatives of other hostages blocked roads in Lebanon to try to pressure the government to negotiate for the release of their loved ones.
Lebanese officials have rejected the possibility of holding talks on a possible prisoner swap, demanded by the militants holding members of the Lebanese security forces.
In the latest footage, al-Nusra says photographs and video show that Hezbollah has bombarded Syrian towns and villages, killed children and raped Sunni women.
The video also includes clips of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah defending the group's role in Syria's conflict.
Twenty soldiers, dozens of militants and 16 civilians were killed in fighting in Arsal that only ended after mediation by Sunni Lebanese clerics.
The militants have reportedly sought to negotiate the release of the hostages in exchange for Islamist prisoners held in Lebanese jails.
The fighting in Arsal was the most serious border incident since the conflict in Syria erupted in March 2011.