Lebanese army prepares to liberate Bekaa towns from ISIS

By Tamer Abu Zeid in Beirut


Lebanese army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hatem Malak visits army units deployed in the northern Bekaa. [Photo courtesy of the army's Directorate of Orientation]

Lebanese army vehicles are advancing to the northern Bekaa Valley in preparation for a military battle to free the border towns of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).

The battles are expected to begin after convoys of al-Nusra Front (ANF) militants and their families move from Wadi Hmeid in Arsal to Syria's Idlib.

"We are ready for whatever the Lebanese army may ask of us in its upcoming mission," said Ras Baalbek mayor Dureid Rahhal.

"We hope this issue will be resolved quickly as people in the region can no longer put up with the terrorists’ threat," he told Al-Mashareq.

"The Lebanese state, its army and its security forces are capable of liberating every inch of Lebanon’s territory and we do not need Hizbullah," MP Khaled al-Daher told Al-Mashareq.

If the militia were loyal to the state, "it would have handed over its weapons to the Lebanese army -- which is capable of defending the country and its people", he said.

The Lebanese army has stepped up the pressure in the mountainous areas of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, bombing ISIS positions after spotting suspicious movements there.

According to media reports, army units stationed there have been given orders to intensify their artillery fire on militant positions before the ground operation starts.

Displaced Syrians under army's protection

As part of the preparations for the battle, Lebanese army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Hatem Mallak on Friday (July 28th) visited military units deployed on the eastern border in the al-Qaa, Ras Baalbek and Arsal areas, and inspected their measures on the ground, the National News Agency reported.

Mallak lauded the army’s "efforts and sacrifices in recent days to strike the terrorists’ infiltration routes towards Arsal and the displacement camps".

He said the army protected the residents of the camps and kept them safe from the clashes, and provided access to food and medical aid in co-ordination with the Red Cross.

"The army's war against terrorism will remain open until the liberation of the last inch of the eastern border region, and the upcoming battle will be decisive and the army will inevitably emerge victorious, the same as it won all the previous confrontations against the terrorist groups," Mallak said.

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