Lebanon bolsters security along Syria frontier

By Junaid Salman in Beirut

Lebanese soldiers take position on the outskirts of Arsal in the foothills of the Eastern Mountain range. [Photo courtesy of the Lebanese Army's Directorate of Orientation]

Lebanese soldiers take position on the outskirts of Arsal in the foothills of the Eastern Mountain range. [Photo courtesy of the Lebanese Army's Directorate of Orientation]

The Lebanese army has bolstered its presence along the country's shared border with Syria by establishing a new land border regiment to repel extremist infiltration attempts and attacks, military experts tell Al-Mashareq.

In recent weeks, the army, with funding from the UK, has finished setting up the 4th Land Border Regiment, which will provide support to the other three regiments responsible for securing the 375-kilometre frontier with Syria.

The 4th regiment will have high-tech communications equipment and cameras, mobile observation platforms, border watchtowers and four-wheel drive vehicles to help secure and mobilise Lebanese positions, Lebanon's Naharnet reported.

The land border regiments will be deployed along the full length of the frontier, from northern Lebanon to its south-eastern border, the Lebanese Army Command told Al-Mashareq in an exclusive statement.

"The role of these regiments is to protect the border and provide security for adjacent Lebanese towns and villages," the command said.

The regiments also are tasked with "fighting terrorist groups and preventing infiltration and smuggling operations in both directions, in addition to monitoring suspicious activity on the border", it said.

Control towers and surveillance

"Last year, a British military unit oversaw the construction of 12 control towers in the border town of Ras Baalbek with the main mission of surveillance and monitoring," the army command said.

These towers are connected to an operations room, which uses the intelligence it receives to activate troops on the ground, as was the case earlier this year in Ras Baalbek, the command said.

On March 10th, elite units of the Lebanese army targeted a large group of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) fighters positioned three kilometres from the army’s front posts on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek.

The units "killed five terrorists and wounded several others, in addition to destroying the group’s installations and military vehicles, some of which were equipped with heavy machine guns", the army said.

The first two land border regiments began operations in 2009, when "weapons were being smuggled from Syria into Lebanon", said military expert Brig. Gen. Khalil Helou, a retired Lebanese military officer.

"Securing the northern border of Lebanon with Syria is relatively easy due to the existence of a natural barrier in the form of the Northern Great River (Nahr al-Kabir al-Shamali)," he told Al-Mashareq.

"The eastern border, on the other hand, is lined with a mountain range that is dotted with about 400 illegal crossings, making it much more difficult to control," he said.

Integrated military system

"The first two regiments were formed following a modern approach, with training conducted by the British and Germans," Helou said, adding that several control towers recently have been erected to secure the border.

These towers are manned by a large number of soldiers, he said, and can monitor all types of human and non-human movement.

They are part of "an integrated military system" that is activated as soon as any suspicious activity is detected, he said. This alerts military patrols and pinpoints the source of the disturbance, as data is automatically transferred via an electronic system to the military command.

The long border with Syria will require more land border regiments to help "better secure the area and limit the smuggling of weapons", Helou said.

"Securing the border with Syria is rendered difficult by the rugged Eastern Mountain range and an absence of any demarcation of the borders between the two countries," said Middle East Centre for Strategic Studies head and retired army officer Brig. Gen. Hisham Jaber.

This is exacerbated by "the presence of armed groups operating alongside 40 kilometres of the mountain range", he told Al-Mashareq, including ISIL and Fatah al-Sham Front, formerly known as al-Nursa Front.

"The army is currently monitoring the hidden pockets [of fighters] on the border," he said, noting that "what the army needs to secure the border is advanced and fast vehicles that allow for rapid movement between border points".

"It is important to rely on patrols rather than fixed and easily identifiable checkpoints," he said, adding that the army also needs surveillance cameras and equipment.

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Yes, this is a great article. Thanks to the Lebanese army and Islamic resistance, we'll defeat those fools. Like His Eminence Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said, this is a golden formula: people, army and resistance