Frame grab from video released by by Heznollah's War Media Center, showing a Hezbollah cannon pounding militants' positions. (The Daily Star, War Media Center)
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Hezbollah launched Friday a large-scale offensive to clear armed militants from rugged terrain in the outskirts of Arsal, seizing key positions and tightening the noose around gunmen entrenched in the area since 2013 .After a first wave of attacks at dawn, Hezbollah fighters conducted a renewed attack around 5:30 p.m. seizing the Rahwe Terrain as well as another strategic hilltop position in the area. Five Hezbollah fighters and 18 militants were killed since the offensive began, a security source told The Daily Star. The evening attacks came after Hezbollah, backed by Syrian warplanes and artillery, launched a fierce ground offensive at dawn to clear militants from the outskirts of Arsal. Hezbollah's media arm later reported fighters seized two key hilltop militant positions and were advancing on two others, inflicting casualties among the gunmen.The Army allowed a group of women and children to cross into Arsal from a nearby Syrian refugee camp close to militant positions.Another source said the Army was in a defensive position, and its main mission was to ensure that militants wouldn't try to slip into the town or its nearby Syrian refugee camps.Last week The Daily Star learned that the order to conduct the offensive had been signed and field commanders had the go-ahead to launch the operation when they saw fit.
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