The Lebanese army has launched an offensive against an Islamic State enclave on the northeastern border with Syria, destroying 11 ISIL positions and killing 20 ISIL fighters
The Lebanese army says it’s destroyed 11 ISIL positions along the border with Syria.
On Saturday, the U.S.-backed army launched its biggest military operation yet against ISIL, since the group gained a foothold along the country’s border with Syria in 2014.
During a news conference, Nazih Jreij, a spokesman for the Lebanese army, said that 20 Islamic State militants were killed, while 10 Lebanese army soldiers were wounded, one seriously.
The long-awaited military campaign aims to defeat IS in the group’s border enclave and put an end to a terror threat that has loomed over Lebanon.
By late afternoon on Saturday, the army said it had captured 30 square kilometers (12 square miles), which is considered to be a third of the area controlled by IS on the Lebanese side of the border.
In a separate operation, the Syrian army and its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group announced an assault on the militants from the Syrian side of border, in the western Qalamoun mountain range.
Hezbollah has been fighting alongside President Bashar Assad’s forces in Syria since 2013.
Hezbollah-run al-Manar TV said that its fighters were ascending a series of strategic heights known as the Mosul Mountains that overlook several unofficial border crossings used by the militants.
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.
It made no mention of the Lebanese army operation.
The Lebanese army said it was not coordinating the assault with Hezbollah or the Syrian army.
Any joint operation between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah and the Syrian army would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardize the sizeable U.S. military aid the country receives.
“There is no coordination, not with Hezbollah or the Syrian army,” General Ali Kanso said in a televised news conference, adding that the army had started to tighten a siege of IS in the area two weeks ago.
“It’s the most difficult battle so far waged by the Lebanese army against terrorist groups – the nature of the terrain and the enemy,” he said, characterizing the 600 Islamic State fighters in the area as 600 “suicide bombers”.