Continuing battle victories: Hezbollah, Syrian army capture further key Qalamoun posts – The Daily Star, Lebanon
BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Syrian army seized two hilltops Tuesday from Islamist fighters in the Qalamoun region, in the latest in a series of gains following more than a week of clashes in the border area.
Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar said the hilltops were located west of the outskirts of the Syrian village of Ras al-Maara and east of the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Nahleh.
An earlier Al-Manar report identied one of the hilltops as the Mashrouh Haql Zeaiter hillop, and said the forces captured the area of Jour Beit Abdel-Haqq.
The most recent positions captured by the Syrian army and its Lebanese allies in the Qalamoun region will prevent militants from launching attacks at the Bekaa Valley, Al-Manar said.
East Bekaa Valley villages had been hit with hundreds of rockets over the past few years launched by Syrian rebel groups. Some groups, including ISIS and the Nusra Front, have also infiltrated Lebanese territory to wage attacks on Hezbollah and and Lebanese army positions.
The rebels say the salvos are in retaliation to Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria on the side of Damascus.
Intermittent clashes are ongoing on the outskirts of Ras al-Maara and around the Al-Barouh hill, one day after fierce fighting in the area led to the killing of several rebel fighters.
Tuesday saw lighter clashes due to intermittent rainfall and fog.
Al-Manar said that militants who withdrew from hills and villages captured by Hezbollah and the Syrian army in Qalamoun are now positioned in Talit Moussa, the highest hilltop in the Qalamoun mountains.
They also receded towards the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal and “portions” of the outskirts of Flita, the report added.
Hezbollah and the Syrian Army will likely advance towards Talit Moussa that is considered as one of the most strategic positions in the Qalamoun mountain range.
Its high altitude would allow the Syrian army to monitor militant movements in the vast expanse of the Qalamoun and the outskirts of Arsal.
The two sides have engaged in daily battles over the past week in the Qalamoun mountains, which straddle Lebanon’s eastern border. Hezbollah and the Syrian army have made important gains in the fighting, driving militants from about a dozen outposts and several towns, including Assal al-Ward and Al-Juba.
Meanwhile, ISIS and a Nusra-led coalition of militants are reportedly battling each other in western Qalamoun, near Lebanon’s border.