MESOP NEWS Syria Daily: Pro-Assad Forces Attack on Both Sides of Lebanon Border

By – Scott Lucas – EAWORLDVIEW – July 21, 2017 – Hezbollah source: “A preliminary shelling for the long-anticipated operation” against fighters – The Assad regime’s forces and Hezbollah have launched attacks on both sides of the Syria-Lebanon border, declaring that they are going to clear fighters from the area.

Hezbollah attacked near the Lebanese border town of Arsal while the Assad regime’s army attacked the western Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian side, said a pro-Assad commander.

A Hezbollah source said, “This might be a preliminary shelling for the long-anticipated military operation by Hezbollah to root out the militant groups from the outskirts of Arsal….Hezbollah militants are ready for the anticipated battle.”

The Assad regime’s warplanes, which have been bombing inside Lebanon over the past week, carried out more raids on Thursday, according to activists.

In summer 2014, Lebanese security forces fought for several days with Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra members near Arsal. An estimated 60 ISIS and Nusra fighters were killed. Twenty Lebanese forces were killed, 85 wounded, and more than 40 taken captive — four of whom were later executed, with some still missing. At the end of June, the Lebanese army raided Arsal’s refugee camps, claiming that they were attacked by five suicide bombers and a sixth man with a hand grenade. Dozens of men were detained and beaten. Four soon died in custody, with photographs and activists casting doubt on authorities’ claims of death from natural causes and pointing instead to torture.

The pro-Assad army said the Lebanese army is not involved in the offensive. A Lebanese security source also said troops were deployed in a defensive posture: “If our positions are not attacked we will not initiate [fire].”

Earlier this week, Amnesty International urged the Lebanese army to “prioritise the protection of Lebanese residents as well as Syrian refugees in the area” during its operations.

“They must refrain from using lethal force except when it is unavoidable for self-defence or defence of others against threats of death and serious injury,” Amnesty’s Lynn Maalouf said on Tuesday. “Thousands of lives are on the line.”