Lebanon News

Summary: Arsal outskirts fight to continue until 'threats' deterred says Nasrallah

File- Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks during a ceremony in Beirut's southern suburbs, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Wednesday defended the decision to launch Arsal outskirts offensive saying it will continue until renewed extremist threats from militants are deterred.

-- See here for the excerpts of Nasrallah's speech --

Members of Daesh (ISIS) and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - formerly known as Nusra Front - are entrenched on the northeast border. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham has lost the majority of the areas under its control.

“The target of the current operation is to drive militant groups from the area currently held by Nusra on outskirts of Arsal and Syrian mountains,” Nasrallah said, adding “we already explained the threat of these groups against Lebanon.”

Nasrallah responded to recent analyses on the objectives of the Arsal battle. “Anyone hesitant can go ask people ... where the rockets fell,” Nasrallah said.

He also said the battle in Arsal “was previously postponed”, adding that “there was information saying the outskirts [in Arsal] have become again a place where car-bombs were being prepared.”

“The decision was not an Iranian decision,” Nasrallah said ruling out any regional interference, adding that “the decision to launch the offensive is solely a decision of Hezbollah.”

“We have been preparing for this offensive since last winter [2016].”

Nasrallah also lauded the Lebanese Army’s role in the offensive, saying “it was key to the achievement.” He added the Army reassured both people in Arsal and Syrian refugees, in addition to offering humanitarian aid to displaced refugees and preventing any contact between the militants and refugees in the area.

Nasrallah also praised the “rational and responsible” conduct of Saraya Ahl al-Sham, a Free Syrian Army group that first engaged in battles in Arsal against Hezbollah but later withdrew from the front lines to the encampments in Arsal’s Wadi Hmayed and al-Malahi.

Nasrallah also stressed his party will not enter these encampments, adding his party has a commitment to coordinate with the Syrian and Lebanese governments to arrange for a safe passage for Saraya Ahl al-Sham.

Nasrallah said that leaders of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham did not respond to the propositions for a settlement.

“We offered [a settlement] in public and in private,” Nasrallah said, adding Jabhat Fatah al-Sham “made a wrong decision” to enter the fight against Hezbollah.

“It is a matter of a few kilometers ... they are in a narrow space,” he said, explaining they have limited options.

“Hezbollah that is offering them a settlement, Lebanese Army is in Arsal, and Daesh wants to humiliate them before helping them,” Nasrallah said.

“Arsal has remained safe,” Nasrallah said, adding that his party exhausted its efforts to avoid any mistake in launching rockets towards the town.

He also expressed readiness “the day after the battle ends to handover all the areas we seized on Lebanese grounds to the Army,” in order for the residents of Arsal to resume their daily activities.

Nasrallah said that negotiations with the militants are going hand in hand with the fight, adding he gave orders for the fighters to advance “steadily.”

He also urged supporters and affiliated journalists not to press and demand a deadline for the operation.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] we started serious negotiations through official Lebanese channels leading negotiations and discussions,” he said, adding “that field developments do not grant Nusra the upper hand in the negotiations,” meanwhile pledging “the families of fighters will always remain safe.”

“We think that we did our duty and we do not expect anyone to thank us,” Nasrallah said, thanking the families of the party members.

Nasrallah also avoided commenting on to U.S. Donald J. Trump’s remarks about Hezbollah “in order to avoid any embarrassment of the Lebanese delegation in the U.S.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and an accompanying ministerial delegation are currently on an official visit to the U.S.

Nasrallah also saluted Army on the occasion of Army Day on August 1, saying “Army is the partner and pioneer in the ‘tripart equation.’”

Hezbollah officials hold the slogan of “Army, resistance, and the people.”

Nasrallah saluted the Palestinians in Jerusalem and in the West Bank in the wake of the recent clashes witnessed in Jerusalem. He also thanked Yemeni rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi for his pledge to support Hezbollah in any fight against Israel.

-- See here for the excerpts of Nasrallah's speech --

 

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