Syria-based terrorist groups are preparing to resume their attacks against Lebanese territories on the northeastern border with Syria with the advent of spring in the next few weeks, according to reports received by military and security institutions in Lebanon based on Western intelligence information.
The anticipated terrorist attacks prompted the Lebanese Army to launch a series of pre-emptive operations against jihadis holed up in rugged areas near the border with Lebanon. The Army’s pre-emptive strikes against ISIS and the Nusra Front have been praised by several foreign security agencies.
The battle for the rugged outskirts stretching from Syria’s Qalamoun region to the Lebanese northeastern town of Arsal, including mountains overlooking the main international highway linking Lebanon to Syria, is inevitable, a high-ranking military source told The Daily Star.
This battle could flare up in a matter of days, especially after the two sides, the Lebanese Army on the one hand, and ISIS and the Nusra Front and those revolving in their orbit on the other, have gathered the necessary military and field information for it, the source said.
According to the source, several Lebanese and Syria factors led to the acceleration of what is known as the “snow-melting” battle in the rugged areas along the Lebanese-Syria borders.
At the forefront of these factors is the Syrian regime’s push to seize control of the largest area in Syria, especially areas that had been under the grip of opposition and extremist groups, the source said, speaking at his office where he was surrounded by geographical maps of areas that were the scene of clashes between the Army and takfiri groups.
Giving another reason that could speed up the battle for the rugged outskirts along the Lebanese-Syrian frontier, the source cited detailed information about dissent and differences that burst out into the open through clashes between some factions affiliated with the Nusra Front and others affiliated with ISIS, and the possibility of Lebanon and Syria, in the absence of coordination between them, separately launching painful strikes against these groups in order to prevent them from achieving their calculated goal to take control of some strategic hills between Lebanon and Syria.
A third reason for the battle is the increasing number of people who are demanding that the Lebanese Army carry out a qualitative military operation against terrorist groups for reasons related to the fate of 25 Lebanese soldiers and policemen held hostage by ISIS and the Nusra Front, the source said.
The supporters of such a military operation are confident of its success, judging by successful pre-emptive battles fought by the Army in the northeastern town of Ras Baalbek last month during which troops managed to wrest control of hilltop positions held by terrorist groups, the source added.
Lebanese officials are well aware that the battles fought by military and security forces against terrorist groups in the rugged areas overlooking Arsal and Ras Baalbek, and stretching along the range of eastern mountains and the northern Bekaa area, to prevent them from making a breakthrough in this region, have given extremist organizations a chance to attempt to cross from Syria into Lebanon through the northern Lebanese territory spanning from Nahr al-Kabir to Akkar and its outskirts, up to Halba and its surroundings.
Security sources said armed militants, estimated at more than 10,000, are in control of territory in northeastern rugged areas up to the coast, where they exercise their religious beliefs and traditions and are trying to impose them on local residents.
Both Lebanon and Syria are eager to liberate their common border from Islamist militants ahead of the Arab summit scheduled to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt at the end of this month and which would discuss the possibility of establishing a joint Arab force to fight terrorism, the military source said.
With this, Beirut and Damascus would try to get Arab leaders meeting in Egypt to face their responsibilities, given that the two countries have been exposed to terrorist attacks, the source said.