Published: Sat, August 19, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Hezbollah says begun assault on IS Lebanon border pocket from Syria

Hezbollah says begun assault on IS Lebanon border pocket from Syria

Simultaneously, the Syrian army and the Lebanese Hezbollah group have revealed a similar campaign to rid IS from the Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian side of the border.

Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 300 square kilometers (115 square miles) between Syria and Lebanon, around half of which is in Lebanon.

Lebanese military sources have said the army would fight Islamic State on Lebanese soil without any direct cooperation with the Syrian army or Hezbollah.

The army in Lebanon will have to liberate around 120 sq km from IS, while the Syrian army and Hezbollah are fighting to defeat IS in 150 sq km of border terrain.

The spokesman for the Lebanese army, Brigadier-General Ali Kanso, said the offensive did not start today.

Some 400 Daesh terrorists are holed up in areas on the Lebanese side of the frontier, while hundreds more are on the Syrian side, according to Lebanon's Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk.

The cross-border battle was anticipated after the defeat of Nusra in border areas in both Syria and Lebanon.

In this battle against the IS, Hezbollah and the Syrian army are fighting in Syria, while the Lebanese army is fighting the group in Lebanon.

Lebanese army chief General Joseph Aoun announced the start of the operation, dubbed Jaroud Dawn, on Saturday.

A commander in the military alliance fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad said that "naturally" there was coordination between the operations.

Any sign of joint operations with the Iran-backed group or the Syrian army could jeopardise the sizeable USA military assistance it receives.

Footage broadcast by Hezbollah-run al-Manar TV showed the group's fighters armed with assault rifles climbing a steep hill in the western Qalamoun. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria since 2013.

The area stretches from the Lebanese town of Arsal, and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria's Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair, which Hezbollah captured in 2013.

Hezbollah and its allies have been pressing the Lebanese state to normalise relations with Damascus, challenging Lebanon's official policy of neutrality towards the conflict next door.

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