Lebanon army retakes most of border areas from Daesh: Spokesman
The Lebanese army says it has captured most of a mountainous area on the border with Syria during an operation aimed at purging the region of Daesh Takfiri terrorists.
“We have captured around another 20 square kilometers, so we have about another 20 square kilometers to go,” said Lebanese army spokesman Brigadier-General Ali Qanso at a press conference on Tuesday.
Qanso did not provide further information on the army’s timeline to finish the operation.
The army spokesman displayed photos of weapons, ammunition and mines belonging to Daesh taken during the operation as well as tunnels used by the Takfiri terrorists.
Backed by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, the army began a long-anticipated operation in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border on Saturday. The push is meant to clear an area of 120 kilometers from elements of Daesh.
Four Lebanese soldiers have been killed in landmine explosions since the start of the operation.
On Saturday, Qanso said 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.
Hezbollah’s media bureau reported that its fighters and the Syrian army had on Saturday “managed to liberate 87 square kilometers of the total area controlled by the Daesh … in western Qalamoun region.”
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 al-Nusra Front, a former affiliate of al-Qaeda which is now mostly concentrated in northwest Syria.
Al-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.
Another nine Lebanese soldiers are believed to remain in Daesh hands. Qanso said the fate of the soldiers were the army’s “top concern.”