Hizballah and Syrian regime forces have launched operations on both sides of the Lebanese border to clear rebel fighters.
Hizballah have launched a major offensive against Syrian rebels on both sides of the Lebanon border, in an operation that aims at giving pro-Assad’s regime forces full control of the frontier region.
The anticipated operation has seen Hizballah and Syrian regime forces launch a joint offensives in Syria’s Qalamoun and around Arsal in Lebanon.
Hizballah’s al-Manar announced “the start of a military operation to purge Jurud Arsal and Qalamoun of armed terrorists”, referring to Free Syrian Army rebels and al-Qaeda-linked militants that operate in the area.
Footage showing Hizballan units firing artillery and tank shells around Arsal was also broadcast. The Lebanese Shia militia previously occupied the region in eastern Lebanon before handing over control to the army.
Hizballah is said to have approached Free Syrian Army units – who make the majority of rebel forces in Qalamoun – to leave the area for southern Syria as part of a truce.
The Hizballah-led operation puts thousands of Syrian refugees living in camps on the Lebanese side of the border at risk, despite 250 leaving Arsal for Syria following a Hizballah-brokered deal on 12 July.
Hizballah was suspected of involvement in the Lebanese army’s raids of refugee camps around Arsal, which led to the deaths of four Syrians in custody.
This comes on the back of growing anti-refugee sentiments in Lebanon and a bid to free Lebanese solidiers being held captive by jihadi militants.
The Lebanese army are not believed to be involved in the latest Arsal operation and reports suggest they will instead play a defensive role to prevent Syrian fighters crossing into Lebanon.
This week, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri hinted that the Lebanese army could be involved in the military operation.
“The Lebanese army will carry out a planned-out operation in Jurud Arsal and the government gives it freedom (to do so),” he said.
Syrian regime jets have launched a number of air raids around the Qalamoun Mountains in the border region to soften up rebel positions before the ground assault.
Hizballah have been instrumental to the Syrian regime’s battle against rebels and the Islamic State group.