CAIRO - The highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world has denounced the Shiite Hizbullah's support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, warning the sectarian strife in Syria is playing into Israel's hands to tighten grip on Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem).
"Syria is nothing but a theatre of the absurd in this battle which has become a Shiite-Sunni struggle," Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayyeb said in a statement cited by Reuters.
"We would have wished that the Shiites would reject this bait, the senior Sunni scholar said.
But the last few days have led one to believe that they have fallen into the trap of hateful sectarian strife."
Hizbullah, a close ally of Iran and the Syrian regime, is openly engaged in the fight against the anti-regime forces in Syria.
Hizbullah fighters helped Assad's forces retake the strategic town of Qusair near Homs on the Lebanese border last week from opponents drawn mostly from Syria's Sunni majority.
The Lebanese group has already lost dozens of its men in the battle for Qusayr.
Last month, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to propel Assad to victory in Syria's civil war.
The Shiite leader also pledged that Hizbullah will turn the tide of the conflict in Assad's favor, and stay as long as necessary to do so.
Earlier this month, prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi called on Sunni Muslims to join opposition forces in their fight against Assad's regime.
Qaradawi also denounced Hizbullah, which means the party of God in Arabic, as the "party of Satan".
The two-year fighting between Assad's forces and anti-regime fighters have killed more than 80,000 people.
The fighting has forced more than one million Syrians to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
Al-Azhar imam has warned that the sectarian war in Syria is playing into Israel's hands to tighten grip on Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem).
"Everyone has now become busy, looking away from the Zionist entity, and especially after Hizbullah joined in the fighting alongside the regime against the Syrian people," said Tayyeb.
Hizbullah was admired by many in the Arab world for its struggle to liberate Lebanese lands from Israel.
But the group's involvement in the Syrian conflict has hardened attitudes in the Sunni world against Hizbullah.
The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on four Lebanese citizens on accusations of fundraising and recruiting for Hizbullah in West Africa.
The US Treasury Department said the men were acting in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and the Gambia.
The sanctions mean they are effectively cut off from the U.S. financial system and any dealings with US citizens.
"Liberating Jerusalem does not pass through Qusair or Homs, Tayyeb said.
Al-Azhar can do nothing but condemn this intervention, which contributes to yet more bloodshed and the tearing apart of the national fabric of Syria and the region."
There is no end in sight to the conflict in Syria, which has divided world powers.
Russia and Shiite Iran support Assad, while the United States, along with some European and Sunni Muslim Gulf Arab nations back a fractured opposition.Damascus and some of its opponents have said they will consider peace talks, but no meetings have been arranged.