Lebanon army says in final stage of border battle with Daesh

Lebanese army soldiers gesture as they sit on their military vehicles in the town of Ras Baalbek, Lebanon, on August 21, 2017. (REUTERS/ Ali Hashisho)
Updated 22 August 2017
0

Lebanon army says in final stage of border battle with Daesh

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s army said Tuesday it had captured most of a mountainous area on the border with Syria during an operation to clear Daesh group jihadists from the region.
The army began its campaign in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud Al-Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border on Saturday, capturing more than two thirds of the 120 square kilometers held by Daesh jihadists in the first two days.
“We have captured around another 20 square kilometers, so we have about another 20 square kilometers to go,” said army spokesman Brigadier General Ali Qanso.
He declined to be drawn on how much longer it would take the army to finish the operation.
Four Lebanese soldiers have been killed since the campaign began, including one on Tuesday when a land mine detonated under his vehicle.
The other three were killed when they drove over a land mine at the weekend.
At a press conference, Qanso presented pictures of Daesh weapons, ammunition and mines recovered during the fight, as well as tunnels used by the jihadist group.
The army estimated that around 600 IS fighters were in the area on the eastern border, where jihadists have long posed a security threat.
In 2014, they invaded the border town of Arsal, capturing 30 Lebanese soldiers and police.
Four were executed by their captors and a fifth died of his wounds. Sixteen were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015, but another nine soldiers are believed to remain in Daesh hands.
Their fate remains unclear, and Qanso said the soldiers were the army’s “top concern.”
The army’s operation comes after Lebanese militant group Hezbollah carried out its own six-day campaign against fighters from a former Al-Qaeda affiliate further south on the border area.
That offensive ended with a cease-fire under which 8,000 refugees and jihadists were transported to northwestern Syria in return for the release of five captured Hezbollah fighters.
Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched their own simultaneous attack against Daesh from the Syrian side of the border on Saturday, but Lebanon’s army insists it is not coordinating the assault.
Hezbollah is a key ally of Syria’s government and has bolstered its forces against rebels there.


Syria state media says US-led coalition hits regime position in east

Updated 28 min 40 sec ago
0

Syria state media says US-led coalition hits regime position in east

  • In the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian government forces have carried out parallel but separate offensives against Daesh
  • Regime forces control land west of the Euphrates River that runs through the province

DAMASCUS: Syrian state media said overnight Sunday to Monday that US-led coalition aircraft had carried out a deadly strike on a regime position in the country’s east near the Iraqi border.
Both US-backed Kurdish-led fighters and Russia-supported regime forces are separately fighting the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
“Aircraft of the American coalition bombarded one of our military positions in the area of Al-Hari southeast of Albu Kamal” town in Deir Ezzor, state news agency SANA reported a military source as saying, adding a number of people had been killed.
IS overran large swathes of Syria and neighboring Iraq in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” in areas they controlled.
But the jihadists have since lost most of that territory, in Syria seeing their presence largely reduced to the country’s vast desert and a few villages near the frontier with Iraq.
In the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian government forces have carried out parallel but separate offensives against Daesh.
Regime forces control land west of the Euphrates River that runs through the province, while the SDF are battling to expel IS from a string of villages on the river’s eastern banks near the Iraqi border.
Both sides have mostly avoided running into each other and a deconfliction line exists to avoid such incidents.
But there have been exceptions.
In April, rare clashes broke out between both sides, killing more than a dozen combatants.
In February, the US-led coalition backing the SDF carried out air strikes in Deir Ezzor province that killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters.
Washington said the strikes were in retaliation for an attack on its own personnel and SDF forces.