Lebanese army, Hezbollah declare offensives on Islamic State at Syrian border
BEYUTER (Reuters) – The Lebanese army launched an offensive on Saturday in an Islamist state enclave in the north-east with Syria, while the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah has announced an attack on militants on the Syrian side of the border border.
The operation of the Lebanese army began at 5 am (0200 GMT), aimed at the positions of the Islamic state near the city of Ras Baalbek with rockets, artillery and helicopters, a security source said. The area is the last part of the Syrian-Lebanese border under insurgent control.
The operation carried out by Hezbollah and the Syrian army led the region across the border in the western region of Qalamoun Syria.
A statement from Hezbollah said the group has committed to “eliminate the terrorist threat to the borders of the country” and fought “side by side” with the Syrian army.
He did not mention the operation of the Lebanese army.
The army said it did not make coordinated assault with Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
Any joint operation between the Lebanese army on the one hand and Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardize the significant help the United States Army receives.
Washington classifies Hezbollah backed by Iran as a terrorist group.
“There is no coordination, not with Hezbollah or the Syrian army,” General Ali Kanso told a televised news conference, adding that the army had begun to squeeze a siege in the region two weeks ago.
“This is the hardest battle ever carried out by the Lebanese army against terrorist groups – the nature of the terrain and the enemy,” he said, characterizing the 600 Islamist fighters in the area as 600 “kamikazes.”
In a recent speech, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the Lebanese army would attack the Islamic side of the state border, while Hezbollah and the Syrian army would simultaneously act on the other side.
A military alliance commander who fought to support President Bashar al-Assad said that “naturally” there was no coordination between the operations.
TIES WITH DAMASK
Last month, Hezbollah forced the front Nusra militants and Syrian rebels to leave neighboring border strongholds in a joint operation with the Syrian army.
The Lebanese army was not involved in the July operation but is preparing to attack the pocket of the Islamic state in the same mountainous region.
The program broadcast by the Al-Manar television channel showed that Hezbollah fighters armed with cluster assault rifles climbed a steep slope in western Qalamoun.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun followed the operation of the army, called “Jroud Dawn”. “Jroud” refers to the arid mountainous border between Lebanon and Syria.
Hezbollah has provided key military support for President Bashar al-Assad during the six-year war in Syria. His Lebanese critics oppose the role of Hezbollah in the Syrian war.