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Lebanon News

West, Army and Hezbollah work to secure border

Toufaili charged that Hezbollah’s battle was directed against Muslims for the sake of defending “the regimes of corruption and tyranny,” in reference to Syria and Iran. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Following intense fighting along Lebanon’s eastern border that pitted Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah, against Nusra Front fighters, all eyes are now on the Bekaa Valley and the mountainous area extending from the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region to the Lebanese border town of Arsal.

Over the weekend, the Lebanese Army deployed at 100 new points in the Baalbek-Hermel villages of Al-Qaa, Ras Baalbek, Fakiha, Meqraq, Labweh, Swanieh, Nahleh, Younin, Maqneh, Bizalieh, Nabi Othman and Arsal.

The Syrian army, with the support of Hezbollah, has been able to contain a number of strategic points for rebels, more than 3,000 of whom were preparing a dangerous operation against Lebanese villages known as “Laylat al-Qadr” (Night of Power).

According to a source familiar with the issue, a Lebanese security agency was informed about the possibility of such an operation two weeks ago by Western intelligence services.

The Syrian rebels had plans to launch a massive ground operation on Lebanese villages bordering Syria and kidnap dozens of men, to be used as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Islamist prisoners held at Roumieh Prison.

The source claimed the gunmen were planning to massacre the villages’ inhabitants, who are mostly Shiite, to tip the country into an open-ended sectarian war.

Western intelligence services also reportedly tipped off Hezbollah with similar information, providing the party with a 10-day window to take the necessary action to rid the areas near the northern Syrian-Lebanese borders of the rebels.

In addition to providing Hezbollah with intelligence support, according to the source, the Western agencies have also helped bring in a media blackout by instructing outlets and intelligence apparatuses not to tackle what is happening on the northeastern mountain slopes. Media outlets were also told not to reveal any information about the number of casualties for both parties.

By aiding Hezbollah and Lebanese state authorities, the West is trying to maintain stability in the country, the source said. The West wants to avoid any incidents that might prompt anything akin to the Syrian civil war in Lebanon, and is helping to prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups into the country, the source added.

For the West, helping Hezbollah – at least partially designated a terrorist organization in Europe and the United States – remains the best solution. In fact, collaboration between Hezbollah and Western security services is far from new; cooperation has taken place between the two over the situation in south Lebanon as well as in Yemen, Palestine and Bahrain.

Separately, sources revealed that military Iranian officials from the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard had arrived in the Bekaa Valley town of Labweh a week ago.

According to the sources, the officials have met with Hezbollah field commanders to create a defense plan in the northern Bekaa Valley to stymie extremist groups from Syria.

The Iranian officials also visited a military operation room that both they and Hezbollah will be using in the Nabi Sheet area.

According to the plan, Hezbollah members and the Syrian army will occupy the farms around the Syrian town of Rankous, specifically Sabna farm. This farm is significant because it is considered a crucial stop on the valley route to Lebanese villages, as well as to Syria’s besieged Zabadani. The plan also divides the area north of Tfeil into two sections on either side of the Syrian opposition fighters to make it easier to attack them.

Hezbollah members have been increasing in numbers at strategic points in border areas, sources said, and there is a growing buzz of surveillance drones over Qalamoun, Zabadani and Serghaya.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 23, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

Following intense fighting along Lebanon's eastern border that pitted Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah, against Nusra Front fighters, all eyes are now on the Bekaa Valley and the mountainous area extending from the outskirts of Syria's Qalamoun region to the Lebanese border town of Arsal.

Over the weekend, the Lebanese Army deployed at 100 new points in the Baalbek-Hermel villages of Al-Qaa, Ras Baalbek, Fakiha, Meqraq, Labweh, Swanieh, Nahleh, Younin, Maqneh, Bizalieh, Nabi Othman and Arsal.

The Syrian army, with the support of Hezbollah, has been able to contain a number of strategic points for rebels, more than 3,000 of whom were preparing a dangerous operation against Lebanese villages known as "Laylat al-Qadr" (Night of Power).

By aiding Hezbollah and Lebanese state authorities, the West is trying to maintain stability in the country, the source said.


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