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Lebanese Army Intensifies ‘Preemptive’ Strikes against Extremists in Arsal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Smoke rises during clashes between the Lebanese soldiers and militants on the mountains next to the entrance of Arsal, August 3, 2014. (Reuters)

Beirut – The Lebanese Army Command announced on Tuesday that it was intensifying its “preemptive” attacks against extremist bases and locations on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal.

The offensive coincided with the arrival of a new batch of American weapons to the army. The cargo was unloaded at the Riyaq airport.

The operations, which have been upped for a week, indicate that the Lebanese military has taken the decision to decisively end the presence of extremists on the outskirts of Arsal. The militants from groups, such as ISIS and al-Nusra Front, have taken up the mountainous border area as a safe haven.

Lebanese political forces informed on the operations told Asharq Al-Awsat that the preemptive measures “target the militant fortifications to prevent their expansion” into other areas and to “thwart their mobility.”

President Michel Aoun had highlighted to Army Commander Joseph Aoun and members of the Military Council last week the importance of the preemptive operations in order to prevent terrorist attacks in Lebanon, revealed the sources.

The army had carried out at dawn on Tuesday a wide military operation against ISIS positions in Lebanon’s eastern mountain range. The National News Agency said that 20 ISIS members were killed and wounded in the operation in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek.

An informed source revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the army kicked off the operations with airstrikes against the militants. This was followed by drones that gathered information. Airstrikes were again carried out as ISIS was collecting its wounded.

The operations will continue as part of the preemptive army mission in the area, it stressed.

The army had carried out on Saturday a “complex” operation that saw the arrest of dozens of terrorists and the death of the religious judge of ISIS in al-Qalamoun.

In a related development, Fatah al-Sham booby-trapping official Abou Qassem al-Talleh was killed and his aide Ahmed Abou Daoud was wounded in a car bombing on the outskirts of Arsal. NNA said that Abou Daoud’s condition was critical.

The Internal Security Forces – Intelligence Bureau also announced the arrest in March of two Lebanese nationals, who confessed to belonging to ISIS and contacting the terror group’s leaders in Lebanon and Syria.