'Karbala is in Aleppo this year': ex-Hizballah leader
The Syrian regime's brutal military campaign against rebel areas in Aleppo has allowed Islamic State group militants to flourish in other parts of the country, Hizballah's former secretary general and senior Shia cleric Sheikh Subhi al-Tufayli said during a fiery Friday sermon this week.
He said that Assad - along with his Iranian, Russian and Hizballah allies - was guilty of "slaughtering thousands of Muslims" in Aleppo, a place he has previously likened to Karbala, one of Shia Islam's most revered cities.
Tufayli said that the the regime's obsession with crushing Syria's opposition movement in Aleppo had done nothing to halt the spread of IS elsewhere in the country.
"How do we explain destruction, spread of fire and the bombs that fall over Aleppo and kill all those in the city while in the deserts of Palmyra, militants that attack the Syrian army and take control in under a day. How do we explain this?" he asked.
"On one side there is an internationally-recognised opposition group and on the other is an unrecognised Islamic State [group]," he said, referring to the two factions fighting the Syrian regime.
"We allow the Islamic State [group] to flourish and attack a genuine opposition so that there is none left but the regime - the same regime which has slaughtered the nation of Mohammed - and the Islamic State [group]. We then tell people to choose; do you prefer IS or Bashar?"
"IS must remain for the regime and its allies so that there can be a comparison between the two. No one would accept IS, so then they must accept the regime."
In another video, the former Hizballah senior slams what he describes as the US-Russian alliance against the Muslims in the region, suggesting that "we [the Shia] are serving the Americans and Russians against Muslim children".
"They have created terror to fight us under its guise," he fired.
Hizballah is a leading faction in the alliance supporting the Assad regime and has provided thousands of soldiers to fight alongside Syrian forces in the country.
The group's current Secretary General Sayed Hassan Nasrallah - once hailed as a pan-Arab anti-Israel resistance figure, has come under fire for his staunch public support of Bashar al-Assad.
The five-year conflict escalated sectarian tensions in the region, with many aligning themselves with political groups depending on the official sect they adhere to - an approach that was condemned by Tufayli.
"The truth is, in the name of Sunni and Shia [Islam] we remain silent on all crimes, destroy our nations and offer it to the dogs of the world - just because I am Shia and you are Sunni," he said.
More than 400,000 people have died since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011, while millions more have been forced to flee in search for safety.