Lebanese army and Hezbollah launch simultaneous attack on ISIS

The Lebanese army launched a long-awaited military operation against ISIS fighters near the Syrian border.

Since 2014, ISIS have controlled an area of 115 square miles, around half of which is in Lebanon. The area includes the Lebanese town of Arsal, Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, and stretches to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair.

The Syrian army and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, launched a simultaneous offensive against ISIS from the Syrian side of the border, in the Qalamoun mountain range.

During a news conference at the Defence Ministry, Brigadier General Ali Qanso denied that the Lebanese army was coordinating its offensive with Syria or Hezbollah fighters.

The Lebanese army receives extensive funding and training support from the US. More than US $1.5bn of aid has arrived in Lebanon over the past decade, including supplies of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, surveillance drones, attack aircraft and helicopters that account for 80 per cent of Lebanon’s military equipment. The US have also trained more than 32,000 Lebanese soldiers.

Lebanon has not intervened in the Syrian civil war, although the presence of ISIS in the border area has resulted in sporadic car bombings and kidnappings throughout the country.

In related news, on Sunday Iraqi forces began an operation to retake Tal Afar, one of the last cities still held by ISIS. The city is located on a major road between Mosul and the Syrian border that was once a key supply route for ISIS.

Iraqi warplanes have bombarded IS positions in the city for several days, in preparation for ground operations. It is estimated that 1,500 – 2,000 ISIS fighters and their families are in the mainly Shia-Muslim city.

On Sunday Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi announced the “start of an operation to free Tal Afar,” declaring to ISIS fighters “that there is no choice other than to surrender or die”.

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