Iran, Hezbollah build 50,000-strong force to 'help Assad regime': Israeli official
London, Mar 15 : Iran and Hezbollah have built a 50,000-strong parallel force in Syria to help the regime of President Bashar-al Assad in its fight against rebels demanding his ouster, Israel's military intelligence chief has claimed.
Major General Aviv Kochavi said Iran intended to double the size of this Syrian "people's army", which he claimed was being trained by Hezbollah fighters and funded by Tehran.
According to Guardian, Kochavi, the director of military intelligence in the Israel defence forces (IDF), also said Assad's troops had readied chemical weapons, but so far had not been given the order for them to be used.
The official claimed that since last June Tehran had been using Hezbollah to build up a large Syrian militia that would be Iranian-controlled even in the event of Assad's fall from power.
According to the paper, Kochavi told the Herzliya Conference, a meeting of security officials and analysts in Israel that Iran and Hezbollah support Assad operationally on the ground, with strategic consultation, intelligence, weapons.
Most recently, they are establishing a 'people's army' trained by Hezbollah and financed by Iran, currently consisting of 50,000 men, with plans to increase to 100,000, he added.