Beirut- The Lebanese army succeeded in regaining control of an area of about 30 square kilometers in the first day launched of the operation against ISIS territory near Syrian borders. Some 11 terrorist strongholds, including tunnels, communication trenches and fortifications and various weapons were said to be destroyed.
The military said that the army troops “continue to advance rapidly under fire artillery support, rocket launchers and aircraft.”
Simultaneously, terror pockets diminished a large number of militants fled the stronghold as it went under attack.
“In the name of Lebanon, the kidnapped soldiers, the blood of martyrs, and all the heroes of the Lebanese army, I hereby launch the Barrens’ Dawn operation,” army commander Gen. Joseph Aoun said.
The militants are entrenched on fortified high ground, in outposts and in caves. An army spokesman said a third of the area had been recaptured in the offensive, with 20 militants killed in direct combat, shelling or airstrikes. Ten Lebanese soldiers were wounded.
An hour after the battle launch, President Michel Aoun visited the Ministry of Defense to review the conduct of military operations.
“The army has succeeded in eliminating a very large part of their men and equipment. We have tightened the noose around them and they have become much weaker,” Col. Nazih Jraish said.
In parallel, Hezbollah announced its militants, joined by Syrian regime forces, carrying out an offensive to control the western Qalamoun groves in Syria.
The Qalamun Mountains are the northeastern portion of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, and they are located northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus.
Despite the Lebanon-based Hezbollah actively intervening in military operations in Syria, the Lebanese army leadership confirmed that the battle it is waging is not coordinated in any way either with Hezbollah or with the Syrian regime.
Footage broadcast on Saturday by Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV showed the group’s fighters armed with assault rifles climbing a steep hill in the western Qalamoun. It also later showed a group of ISIS fighters it said had handed themselves over to their forces.
A Hezbollah statement said the group was meeting its pledge to “remove the terrorist threat at the borders of the nation” and was fighting “side by side” with the Syrian army.
Any joint operation between the Lebanese army on the one hand and Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardize the sizeable US military aid the country receives.
Washington classifies the Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist group.