Lebanon army retakes ISIS posts on eastern border

By Tamer Abu Zeid in Beirut


Lebanese army units roll through the eastern border town of al-Qaa ahead of an operation to oust the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' from the area. [Photo courtesy of al-Qaa mayor Bachir Matar]

Lebanese army units are making progress in the mountainous terrain around Ras Baalbek, al-Qaa and al-Fakiha ahead of the official start of the operation to oust the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) from areas along the border.

Army units advanced to retake strategic points under the cover of heavy artillery fire, which could be heard in northern Bekaa Valley towns.

The airborne regiment retook several hilltops, including Qanzuhet Marah al-Sheikh, Khabiyat as-Saghir, Talaat al-Khanzeer and Shamis Khazal, and destroyed a number of fortifications.

Meanwhile, the army is consolidating its positions in the rugged area around Arsal to prevent extremist infiltration, and is transporting armoured vehicles and forces to Ras Baalbek hills, which it retook at dawn Wednesday (August 16th).

The airborne regiment's attack was followed by an assault by the 1st intervention regiment, which retook Kherbat Khazal, Oqab Khazal and Dhuhur al-Khanzeer hills.

On Tuesday night, Army Chief Gen. Joseph Aoun visited Ras Baalbek, and military units began bombarding ISIS sites on Lebanon's eastern border, as reinforcements were brought in and deployed to the mountainous areas.

Strong support for army

"We are standing alongside the army in its battle, and the people, municipality and institutions are ready to provide the necessary support to ensure that no infiltration or acts of sabotage take place," Ras Baalbek mayor and retired army officer Dureid Rahhal told Al-Mashareq.

"The army is the master on the entire Lebanese soil," said Lebanese MP Ibrahim Kanaan, who represents the Free Patriotic Movement in parliament.

"Wherever the army sees aggressions or sources of threat, it is our duty to stand alongside it to repel these aggressions," he told Al-Mashareq, stressing that the army is "capable" and has "all the necessary supplies".

Lebanese parliament convened on Wednesday to follow up on the army’s operations on the border. Some lawmakers asked that parliament hold a special session to salute the army, to be attended by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

MP Emile Rahme, who represents the Baalbek-Hermel district, told Al-Mashareq that "the Lebanese army has a very strong presence in the area, and this gives people there maximum assurance".

"I salute the chief of army who is present on the field with all of his senior officers," he said. "They will liberate the remaining parts of Lebanon’s soil from the terrorists."

"When a single inch of the Lebanese soil is occupied, the Lebanese army has the authority on the ground and in the field," he said.

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