3 Lebanese soldiers killed in Syria border operation
Three soldiers of the Lebanese army have been killed in an ongoing operation near the Syrian border against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
The army said in a statement Sunday that the three were travelling on a vehicle in the east of the country along the border with Syria when it was hit by mine.
“An army vehicle was hit by a landmine on the al-Najsa road roundabout in Jurud Arsal at noon today, killing three soldiers and injuring one soldier seriously,” the army said, adding that its forces swiftly evacuated the wounded soldier to a hospital for treatment.
Backed by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, the army began a long-anticipated operation to the north of the border with Syria on Saturday. The push is meant to clear an area of 120 kilometers from elements of Daesh.
The army spokesman said Saturday that some 20 Daesh militants had been killed since the start of the operation and that some 30 square kilometers (11 miles square) of land that used to be controlled by the Daesh had been liberated. Estimates suggest 600 Daesh militants are holding positions in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas, the main regions covered by Lebanon army operation. There was no official statement about potential recaptures and casualties in Daesh ranks on Sunday.
The army operation came short after Hezbollah launched its own battle in Jurud Arsal region. Hezbollah managed to inflict huge losses on militants linked to Nusra Front, a former affiliate of al-Qaeda which is now mostly concentrated in northwest Syria. Nusra admitted defeat after six days of fierce fighting and handed over five Hezbollah fighters in return for evacuation of its militants to a region in neighboring Syria.
The army operation against Daesh could end in a similar deal as the Takfiri group is still believed to be holding nine Lebanese soldiers and police officers three years after it invaded the border town of Arsal. Five from a group of 30 kidnapped servicemen have either been killed or died during captivity while 16 were released in a prisoner swap in December 2015.