Lebanese Army tanks deployed in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek, Saturday, January 24, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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The streets of Ras Baalbek, in northeast Lebanon, were eerily calm, intercepted at times by the sounds of the Lebanese Army's military vehicles cruising by, the four-by-fours of Hezbollah's Resistance Brigades not far behind.Elie Mourad, a teacher from the town, says residents are not afraid of ISIS or the Nusra Front, whose members are believed to be hiding in caves just beyond the town, which borders Syria. There are believed to be around 40 militants positioned in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek.Mourad said few return home during the weekends, while others only visit during the summer months.He added that the role of the Resistance Brigades – a group of Ras Baalbek youth trained by Hezbollah – was to monitor the entrances to Ras Baalbek to prevent suspicious individuals from entering. Mourad does not believe that ISIS was targeting Ras Baalbek for its predominately Christian population; rather he believes the strategic location of the town would help the militant group gain the one thing it needs the most: a foothold. The area also connects Ras Baalbek's outskirts to those of Arsal and Al-Qaa.
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