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Lebanese army ‘strengthening positions’ against Daesh

A man watches Lebanese army soldiers ride on a military tank in Labwe, at the entrance of the border town of Arsal, in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, on July 27, 2017. (REUTERS/Ali Hashisho)
BEIRUT: The Lebanese army says it is currently strengthening its positions against Daesh following skirmishes with militants close to the Syrian border.
A military source stated that the army had exchanged fire on Thursday with fighters attached to Daesh, which controls a barren mountainous area in northeastern Lebanon.
The official Lebanese National News Agency (NNA) reported that “Daesh militants fired at the Lebanese army which in turn responded.”
A Lebanese military source confirmed to Arab News that “skirmishes between the Lebanese army and Daesh militants take place on a regular basis and cannot be considered as new military operations.”
The source added: “No negotiations with Daesh are currently taking place. We are strengthening our positions in preparation for any possible incident. According to the given data and conditions on the ground, we will determine if we will wage a battle against Daesh.”
Meanwhile, areas close to those controlled by Daesh were calm at 6 a.m. on Thursday, following the announcement of a cease-fire by Hezbollah, after its battle against Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, in the Jaroud Arsal area.
According to the NNA, “the General Security Head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim led successful negotiations in order to achieve this cease-fire.”
After his visit on Wednesday to the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, Ibrahim confirmed that the “terms of the cease-fire are confidential.”
He continued: “All I can say is that there is a real cease-fire in effect. Militants and civilians can go to Idlib in an organized manner under the supervision of the Lebanese authorities; the Lebanese Red Cross will oversee logistical matters. This is all I can disclose now, and I believe that the terms of the agreement will be shown by concrete actions. There is no time limit for the agreement but it will be achieved in a matter of days.”
Hezbollah will be handed three of its fighters who were kidnapped by the JFS, according to the NNA. They were reportedly detained in the town of Al-Eis in the Aleppo countryside between 2015 and 2016. The JFS shared a video clip two days ago showing the hostages, calling on Hezbollah’s leadership to stop the war or they would pay the price with their lives, it was reported.
A Lebanese military source confirmed to Arab News that the JFS was in control of “barren areas between Lebanon and Syria” but that “the Lebanese barren areas will be under Lebanese army control after the implementation of the cease-fire.” As for the areas under the control of Daesh, “they are completely (within) Lebanese territory and their fate is in the hands of the Lebanese army.”
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech on Tuesday night that Hezbollah has nothing to do with the ongoing negotiations that are currently carried out by Lebanese authorities. Hezbollah also announced the names of 26 men who died during six days of battles against the JFS.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Wednesday discussed the developments in Jaroud Arsal with Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk.
He stated after the meeting that “the battles took place on disputed lands, as there is a disagreement over the possession of these lands between Lebanon and Syria.”
He responded to Hezbollah’s accusations directed against those who objected to the battles saying, “we only want the Lebanese army to be in control; we are not attacking others.”
“Years ago, we discussed the strategic defense initiative and the role of the resistance, but the discussions were stopped. We call on the president to restart the discussions,” Machnouk said.
He also stressed that there was a “new army commander who is fulfilling his role perfectly.”

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