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1ST LEAD Lebanese army launches border offensive against Islamic State By Weedah Hamzah, dpa

Europe
19.08.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Beirut (dpa) - Lebanon‘s army on Saturday launched an offensive to clear Islamic State militants from the country‘s eastern border with Syria, and said they had made early gains.

"We have waged the battle and we are confident that we will win," said military spokesman Brigadier General Ali Kanso at a press conference.

He added that there are believed to be some 600 Islamic State fighters in the border towns of al-Qaa and Ras Baalbek in north-eastern Lebanon, comprising an area of 120 square kilometres.

Army chief General Joseph Aoun announced the start of Operation Dawn of the Desert on Twitter early Saturday.

Residents near the targeted areas told dpa that the sound of heavy bombardment could be heard across the region.

"There is non-stop bombardment. The army cannon have not stopped since the early hours of the morning," a resident who identified himself as Hussein and lives east of Ras Baalbek told dpa.

There is no fixed timeframe for the operation, said Kanso, and it was not coordinated with the Shiite movement Hezbollah or the Syrian army.

"The operation started today and will last until we reach the Syrian border. There is not direct or indirect coordination with Syria," he said.

A Lebanese army source told dpa: "Our troops are surrounding them [Islamic State]. Their ranks are collapsing."

Hezbollah‘s Al Manar TV broadcast footage of what they claimed to be Islamic State fighters turning themselves in to the movement near one of the battle areas.

Last month, Hezbollah, in coordination with the Syrian army, had launched an offensive to clear fighters linked to al-Qaeda from the outskirts of Arsal in north-eastern Lebanon.

The fighting ended with a swap deal between Hezbollah and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, which ended with extremist fighters leaving Lebanon for Idlib in north-western Syria. 

Hezbollah is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and is fighting alongside his forces against rebels seeking to topple him. 

Islamic State is currently holding nine Lebanese soldiers captive. They were taken during clashes with the Lebanese army in 2014 in the north-east.

 

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