BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s military offensive on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal has been successfully concluded, party commanders told reporters Saturday during a media tour of areas captured from militants in the mountains bordering Syria.
“Hezbollah accomplished the main objective of the operations [on the outskirts of Arsal],” a party commander said, according to the Hezbollah-affiliated War Media Center.
Hezbollah on Friday, July 21, launched a week-long assault on positions held by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – the militant group formerly known as the Nusra Front – on the outskirts of both Arsal and the adjacent town of Flita in Syria.
The party’s fighters seized land in the rugged, mountainous area from the militant group, and the conflict ended with a cease-fire that went into effect Thursday.
The deal includes an exchange initiative, which will see the return of militants and other Syrian nationals to Syria, in exchange for the repatriation of captured Hezbollah fighters.
In addition to journalists, a number of representatives of Lebanese military institutions and political parties joined Saturday’s tour.
“We accomplished the main target of the operations by expelling the Nusra Front from the Qalamoun mountains and the outskirts of Arsal,” Hezbollah’s War media center quoted an unidentified commander as saying.
“The security and military threat has been deterred,” he went on.
“We detonated more than one [militant-made] car bomb and we found numerous metal workshops [established] to manufacture bombs and mortars, with tons of explosive material in the workshops.”
Hezbollah officials have repeatedly said that car bombs were made in metal workshops in the outskirts of Arsal, and previously in Syria’s Qalamoun mountains. In 2013 and 2014, a series of deadly car bomb attacks rocked Lebanon, chiefly in areas where Hezbollah enjoys popular support, before security agencies and the Army tightened their security measures.
“Hezbollah pressed the Nusra Front into an area of about five square kilometers east of Arsal, equivalent to nearly five percent of the total operation grounds,” WMC reported the commander as saying.
He added that “the presence of civilians in [Arsal’s] al-Malahi and the encampment [of Wadi Hmayed] restricted the possibilities for combat maneuvers” in the area.
The commander also reportedly said that Hezbollah fighters managed to infiltrate behind enemy frontiers and attack militants from unexpected positions. “We fought the enemy face to face, from close range,” he said.
He also included the Arsal offensive as part of a series of battles Hezbollah has fought, starting in Homs’ Qusair and continuing into Qalamoun in 2014, before heading to the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and the Qalamoun mountains in 2015.