Thousands of Islamist militants withdrawing from Qalamoun towns are likely to gather around Arsal’s outskirts, As-Safir newspaper reported Monday.
As the Syrian army and Hezbollah took control of strategic hills in the volatile border region last week, militants withdrew from their hideouts towards northeastern Lebanon where Arsal is located.
They have so far moved to the outskirts of al-Jubba, Ras al-Maarra and Flita, which implies they could be heading to Arsal’s outskirts soon, according to a report published As-Safir.
The continuity of the battles will make this scenario inevitable, the report added, and around 2,500 jihadis will seek refuge in Arsal’s outskirts and whatever they can “bite” from the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa.
The main motive behind their relocation is the belief that Hezbollah would not follow them to Arsal’s outskirts, at least not in the near future, and that the Lebanese Army is unlikely to invade the area, the report explained.
The report also revealed militants left behind food, supplies, ammunition, and weapons as they came under attack by Hezbollah-backed Syrian troops.
A number of cars were also found, some of them rigged with explosives and others in the process.
The report estimated the arms arsenal of the jihadis to be around 150 heavy machineguns ranging from 12.7 to 23 millimeters, as well as anti-armor rockets that with ranges from 3.5 to 5 kilometers.
The jihadis have in their possession a “few tanks and armored vehicles,” and “many trucks and bulldozers” the report said.
They also have locally produced missiles with ranges up to 22 kilometers used in Grad BM -21, the report added.
As-Safir said the Nusra Front fighters left in their hideouts a number of valuable documents, including maps, which reveal their “plans, alliances, and sponsors.”
According to the documents found, Nusra and ISIS [Daesh] were building a joint “Lebanese strategy” for their actions on the borders, and that their plans includ domestic Lebanese calculations.
The report also states that Hezbollah and the Syrian army's attacks also foiled the previous plans of militants to exit the Qalamoun hills towards Homs’s countryside and then to Raqqa, the self-declared capital of ISIS.
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