The Lebanese army announced on Sunday that a ceasefire in its battle to expel ISIS terrorists from its eastern border with Syria got underway at 7:00 am.
The truce was declared to pave the way for final negotiations linked to the fate of soldiers abducted by the terrorists in 2014.
The army did not mention whether the ceasefire would include the Syrian side of the border where the “Hezbollah” group and Syrian regime forces were battling ISIS in the al-Qalamoun region.
The two allied sides had announced a ceasefire in the Syrian region earlier this week.
The fighting began a week ago when the Lebanese army, and “Hezbollah” and Syrian forces, launched separate but simultaneous offensives against an ISIS enclave straddling the border.
The Lebanese soldiers at the heart of negotiations with ISIS were kidnapped by the group in wake of clashes with the military after it and other militants overran in 2014 the northeastern border town of Arsal. ISIS abducted a number of servicemen in wake of its retreat from the battle.
The fate of the nine soldiers held by ISIS has been unknown since 2014.
Defense Minister Yaacoub al-Sarraf stated on Sunday that there can be negotiations over anything before the fate of the detainees is revealed.
“We would not have been able to reach this point without the Lebanese army,” he stated.
The Lebanese army has said it is not coordinating its attack with “Hezbollah” or the Syrian regime.
Any coordination between the Lebanese army and either the Syrian regime or “Hezbollah” would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardize the sizeable US military aid the country receives.
A Western diplomat praised the Lebanese army’s performance in the border battle in “a risky and complex operation” that the diplomat said would have been “simply unimaginable” a decade ago, reported Reuters on Sunday.
“We see no evidence of substantive cooperation (between the army and Hezbollah),” the diplomat added.
A source familiar with the talks said there has been some communication between the Lebanese army and “Hezbollah” in the run up to the simultaneous ceasefires on Sunday.
Later on Sunday, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil congratulated the Lebanese army on its victory against terrorism.
He said while visiting a military base in the eastern Ras Baalbek region that the army deserves the credit in ridding Lebanon of terrorists.