Lebanese army steamrolls ISIS border positions, raises Spanish flag for Barcelona victims
The Lebanese army seized 80 of 120 square kilometers from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters along its north-eastern border with Syria in its ongoing ‘Jroud Dawn’ military operation, which began 5am (0200 GMT) Saturday.
The Lebanese military operation coincided with a joint Syrian army-Hezbollah offensive across the border in the Qalamoun region of Syria.
Concentrating their campaign on the Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa mountainous areas, the Lebanese military announced that by Sunday, they had pushed the terrorists from 12 strongholds while killing at least 15 militants.
During the second day of fighting, the army captured around 30 square kilometers from IS fighters, the army said, adding that three Lebanese servicemen were killed and three others wounded amid the ongoing operation.
To mark their military success and “pay homage to the victims of Spain and around the world,” Lebanese soldiers raised a Spanish flag on a hilltop after securing an IS outpost in the Ras Baalbeck mountains.
On Thursday, a man plowed a van into a crowd of people in a popular tourist street in Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring more than 100. Hours later, terrorists launched a second attack in the seaside town of Cambrils, injuring seven people, one of whom died. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Coinciding with the Lebanese army's advance, the Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar satellite channel reported that across the border, Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army also pushed forward, regaining an 87-kilometer area in the Qalamoun region and securing “a number of ISIL posts in Al-Suhreej and Harf al -Jafr.”
On Saturday, a correspondent from Syria's SANA news agency reported that “army units, in cooperation with the Lebanese National Resistance,” established full control over at least a dozen strategic heights in the mountains. The report added that Syrian troops and Hezbollah are advancing towards the al-Arqoub and Rabeit al-Nahhash areas in western Qalamoun.
The Lebanese army offensive, which began early Saturday morning, followed IS' shelling of cross border targets on Lebanese territory and incursions by IS terrorists who are trying to take over Lebanese villages to secure strategic fighting positions.
The operation has been planned for weeks, the army insists while denying the offensive against IS was coordinated with Damascus and Hezbollah.
“We have been planning the attacks for over two weeks now,” a spokesman for the Lebanese army, Brigadier-General Ali Kanso, was quoted as saying by Al Jazeera. “Our mission is to clear the border areas all the way to the Syrian borders.”