Hezbollah gains key territories in Arsal outskirts

Published June 8th, 2015 - 11:48 GMT

Hezbollah fighters made major gains over the weekend, recovering large swaths of land on the outskirts of Arsal, including a cave that once housed a senior Nusra Front commander, and killing 26 militants, sources close to Hezbollah told The Daily Star Sunday.

In its evening bulletin, Al-Manar showed a special unit from Hezbollah breaking into a cave in the Qalamoun hills that, according to the TV station, was once a hideout used by Nusra Front’s commander in Qalamoun Abu Malek al-Talli.

Al-Manar said fighters found weapons and documents in the cave.

As Hezbollah advanced in Arsal, the Nusra Font circulated images on social media of four captured Lebanese servicemen joining its ranks to fight Hezbollah on the outskirts of the northeastern town. While the families of the abducted servicemen confirmed to The Daily Star the identity of the four that appeared in the images, the families’ spokesman Hussein Youssef described it as “a ploy by Nusra to put pressure on both the government and the families.”

The pictures circulated by the Nusra Front showed the four policemen – Georges Khazaka, Maher Khayyat, Maymoun Khayyat and Pierre Geagea – wearing military fatigues, some of them carrying weapons.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah fighters pushed further into the outskirts of the of Arsal, capturing a set of peaks from Nusra Front jihadis who fled toward a Syrian refugee camp, Al-Manar TV reported.

The Hezbollah-run station said its fighters’ latest offensive on the southeastern outskirts of Arsal left scores of militants dead or wounded.

Sunday’s advance forced the militants to flee toward a Syrian refugee camp and an amusement park in Wadi al-Hosn, which is very close to the town of Arsal, Al-Manar said.

It added that Hezbollah captured a set of peaks southeast of the border town. The hilltop positions overlook the areas of Wadi Atnin and Wadi al-Khayl, which reportedly serve as important bases for Syrian jihadis.

Further east, Hezbollah and the Syrian army captured the Al-Hamra-Qusair crossing, which links the outskirts of the Syrian town of Flita to the outskirts of Arsal, Al-Manar said.

Separately, the Lebanese Army pounded militant positions on the outskirts of Arsal with rockets. The military also carried out patrols inside the town, security sources said.

Al-Manar Saturday said Hezbollah fighters and Syrian army soldiers captured the Sadr al-Bustan hill, thereby taking control of the outskirts of Flita. Fighting in the area had been going on for weeks. It said dozens of jihadis were killed.

The militants who fled the battle were forced to retreat to a Daesh-controlled zone named Jarjeer on Arsal’s outskirts, Al-Manar said.

Daesh controls most of the areas north of Arsal, as well as large parts of areas bordering the Lebanese towns of Al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek.

Hezbollah has been fighting jihadi militants on the outskirts of Arsal over the past several days, capturing more than a dozen positions and hilltops from Nusra Front-led fighters.

The offensive began over a month ago on the southern end of the Qalamoun mountain range on Syria’s western border with Lebanon. Fighters from Hezbollah, the Syrian army and their allies slowly moved north toward Arsal’s outskirts, killing hundreds of jihadis and capturing large swaths of territory.

Hezbollah fighters made major gains over the weekend, recovering large swaths of land on the outskirts of Arsal, including a cave that once housed a senior Nusra Front commander, and killing 26 militants, sources close to Hezbollah told The Daily StarSunday.

In its evening bulletin, Al-Manar showed a special unit from Hezbollah breaking into a cave in the Qalamoun hills that, according to the TV station, was once a hideout used by Nusra Front’s commander in Qalamoun Abu Malek al-Talli.

Al-Manar said fighters found weapons and documents in the cave.

As Hezbollah advanced in Arsal, the Nusra Font circulated images on social media of four captured Lebanese servicemen joining its ranks to fight Hezbollah on the outskirts of the northeastern town. While the families of the abducted servicemen confirmed to The Daily Star the identity of the four that appeared in the images, the families’ spokesman Hussein Youssef described it as “a ploy by Nusra to put pressure on both the government and the families.”

The pictures circulated by the Nusra Front showed the four policemen – Georges Khazaka, Maher Khayyat, Maymoun Khayyat and Pierre Geagea – wearing military fatigues, some of them carrying weapons.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah fighters pushed further into the outskirts of the of Arsal, capturing a set of peaks from Nusra Front jihadis who fled toward a Syrian refugee camp, Al-Manar TV reported.

The Hezbollah-run station said its fighters’ latest offensive on the southeastern outskirts of Arsal left scores of militants dead or wounded.

Sunday’s advance forced the militants to flee toward a Syrian refugee camp and an amusement park in Wadi al-Hosn, which is very close to the town of Arsal, Al-Manar said.

It added that Hezbollah captured a set of peaks southeast of the border town. The hilltop positions overlook the areas of Wadi Atnin and Wadi al-Khayl, which reportedly serve as important bases for Syrian jihadis.

Further east, Hezbollah and the Syrian army captured the Al-Hamra-Qusair crossing, which links the outskirts of the Syrian town of Flita to the outskirts of Arsal, Al-Manar said.

Separately, the Lebanese Army pounded militant positions on the outskirts of Arsal with rockets. The military also carried out patrols inside the town, security sources said.

Al-Manar Saturday said Hezbollah fighters and Syrian army soldiers captured the Sadr al-Bustan hill, thereby taking control of the outskirts of Flita. Fighting in the area had been going on for weeks. It said dozens of jihadis were killed.

The militants who fled the battle were forced to retreat to an ISIS-controlled zone named Jarjeer on Arsal’s outskirts, Al-Manar said.

ISIS controls most of the areas north of Arsal, as well as large parts of areas bordering the Lebanese towns of Al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek.

Hezbollah has been fighting jihadi militants on the outskirts of Arsal over the past several days, capturing more than a dozen positions and hilltops from Nusra Front-led fighters.

The offensive began over a month ago on the southern end of the Qalamoun mountain range on Syria’s western border with Lebanon. Fighters from Hezbollah, the Syrian army and their allies slowly moved north toward Arsal’s outskirts, killing hundreds of jihadis and capturing large swaths of territory.


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