Security

Lebanese army operation close to completion

By Tamer Abu Zeid in Beirut

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Lebanese army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun arrives at an operational command post in the eastern town of Ras Baalbek on Wednesday (August 23rd) as troops conduct an operation against the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' on the country's border with Syria. [STRINGER/AFP]

Operation Fajr al-Juroud (Al-Juroud Dawn) has so far destroyed most "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) positions in the outlying areas of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa along Lebanon's border with Syria, officials tell Al-Mashareq.

The Lebanese army has retaken a 100 square kilometre stretch along the border, and the operation is said to be close to completion.

To celebrate the imminent victory, Ras Baalbek residents gathered near the church at the top of town to receive the soldiers returning from the battlefield, while the people of al-Qaa assembled in front of Mar Elias church.

"We do not know whether words are enough to salute our army and its sacrifices," al-Qaa mayor Bashir Matar told Al-Mashareq. "We say to the military institution, thank you."

For the fourth consecutive day, Lebanese army artillery pounded ISIS positions in the outlying areas of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa.

Meanwhile, army helicopters hovered in the skies overhead, in what was deemed to be the preparation for the operation's third and final phase.

Violent clashes broke out between the army’s front units and ISIS, leading to the recapture of the strategic Ras al-Kaff hilltop.

Army units also retook Ras Dalil, Damaneh, Queisha, Qarrani, Shaabat and Marah Safa al-Kaff heights, prompting ISIS to flee on motorcycles towards Wadi Mira.

Corporal Abbas Kamal Jaafar was killed in Wadi al-Kheshn outside Arsal as he and a specialised team attempted to dismantle an improvised explosive device (IED).

Four other soldiers were wounded in the operation.

"All the terrorists’ positions have been destroyed, and the remaining terrorists have fled," said Brig. Gen. Ali Qanso, director of the Lebanese army’s Guidance Department, updating the media on the army’s operations.

"Nine terrorist positions have been destroyed, weapons, ammunition and explosives have been seized, and we have retaken about 100 square kilometres," he said. "Only about 20 square kilometres remain."

"Today, we have to look for ways to support the Lebanese army, which is making all sacrifices for our dignity, sovereignty and country," Lebanese MP Ibrahim Kanaan told Al-Mashareq.

During a session of parliament Tuesday, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri praised "the achievement which the Lebanese army is making with the blood of its heroes, and which is the dearest achievement for all of us".

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