Lebanon: Hezbollah, allies prevent cross border attack by extremist groups

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Militants remain active in the Qalamoun region of Syria on the Lebanese border. (Photo: Radwan Mortada)

Published Thursday, October 9, 2014

After four intense clashes with al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and their allies, Hezbollah and the Syrian army succeeded in foiling multiple cross border attacks, causing a number of losses in the ranks of the militants and their supply of ammunition.

The violent clashes that erupted last Sunday in al-Qalamoun and Ersal have calmed down Wednesday night. After Hezbollah suffered a severe blow on the outskirts of Brital, news of the death of tens of militants from al-Nusra Front and its allies surfaced.

What really happened on the outskirts of Qalamoun in the last few days and up until Wednesday’s “bloodbath” against Nusra and its allies?

The militants opposing the Syrian government have all united under the same flag in Qalamoun. ISIS, Nusra and what is left of the so-called Free Syrian Army are all fighting side by side.

They attacked Hezbollah sites on the outskirts of Lebanon’s Brital and Nahle last Sunday, successfully infiltrating Lebanese territory and causing Hezbollah major losses before being forced to retreat due to Hezbollah’s strong resilience and quick retaliation.

In response, Nusra and ISIS militants adopted a new strategy. They attacked positions belonging to Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the outskirts of the Syrian villages of Assal al-Ward, Jebbeh and Flita. However, the attack on Syrian territory was more intense than that inside Lebanon. According to sources on the field, the number of militants was greater and they fired ammunition “abundantly.”

The third cross-border attack was last week when militants were able to control a strategic position that overlooks the village of Assal al-Ward and the road leading to the village of Jebbeh.

They released footage of them inside these sites, claiming they have full control of the village, even though, in reality, they were several kilometers away from Assal al-Ward.

The Syrian army and Hezbollah retaliated and regained control of the site. Because the militants could not keep hold of the site, they blew up all the ammunition before retreating.

According to Al-Akhbar’s sources, tens of militants were killed and injured. More than 10 bodies remain on the battleground up until the writing of this article. Pictures and videos from the clashes confirm the sources’ claims.

The sources also said the Syrian army struck a field hospital close to Martbieh crossing on the outskirts of Qalamoun, where militants took their injured, which further increased the militants’ casualty toll.

Moreover, Hezbollah fighters managed Tuesday night to take control of “Um Kharj” near the Lebanese border, a strategic site on the outskirts of Assal al-Ward, after violent clashes with Nusra militants.

Field sources said clashes, which lasted until late hours on Tuesday, left more than 10 Nusra militants dead and dozens injured.

Al-Akhbar sources said the hill of “Um Kharj” is of high importance as it is 2,600 meters above sea level and overlooks a wide area including al-Jibbe outskirts, al-Khasha’ and other hills in Qalamoun.

The “Um Kharj” site appears in a video Nusra released of their attack on “Ain Saa” on the outskirts of Brital.

Moreover, armed Syrian militants claimed yesterday the kidnapping of a 24-year-old Hezbollah fighter called A.A.. They released a photo, but not a video, that shows his hands tied. They refused to confirm if he was alive or dead. Sources told Al-Akhbar that the fighter was injured and could not be contacted.

Will the scenario of the martyr Zulfikar Ezzedine, from Lebanon’s Tyre district, recur? Ezzedine died in Damascus countryside last year, after armed opposition militants caught him and published a video showing him taking his last breaths.

Hezbollah has been dealt several blows in the past few days. But according to a Hezbollah source “the price remains much less than what we (Hezbollah) and all the Lebanese people would have paid if the takfiris successfully infiltrated our borders and reached Lebanese villages and cities, and if ISIS and Nusra terrorists were still entirely in control of Qalamoun and Qusayr.”

According to analysts, barren areas between Qalamoun and Ersal under opposition control have given militants a stronger position.

They now seek to wage a war against Hezbollah and the Syrian army in the hopes of draining their power. However, analysts say that as winter approaches, they will fail just like they did on Assal al-Ward outskirts Wednesday.

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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