Lebanon and Syria start joint offensive to clear border of Isis militants

Lebanese army artillery

Last month, the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah forced Jabhat Fateh al-Sham fighters and Syrian rebels to leave nearby border strongholds in a joint operation with the Syrian army.

Lebanon's army began its operation in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa region early on Saturday, and has already recaptured two thirds of the territory in the area, the military said.

The Lebanese army said it was attacking the group from inside its territory and was not coordinating with Hizballah or the Syrian army in the operation.

On Sunday, the SITE Intelligence Group reported an IS claim that the jihadists had killed "nearly 100 Lebanese soldiers and Hezbollah fighters amidst clashes in western Qalamun".

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Hezbollah is deeply embroiled in the civil war that has raged in neighbouring Syria since 2011, fighting in support of President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The Lebanese army launched its operation first, he said, pounding militant positions with rocket and artillery fire starting at 5am.

The Hezbollah and Syrian army assault is taking place inside Syria.

The Lebanese army later posted an image on its website showing its troops waving both a Lebanese and a Spanish flag in Ras Baalbek in what it described as a "salute from our troops" to the victims of the Barcelona terror attack in which 13 people were killed on Thursday.

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Lebanese troops also attacked ISIS positions on the Lebanese side of the border on Wednesday and tightened the siege on them, an anonymous Lebanese official told the AP. The area is the last part of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier under insurgent control. -Gen. Ali Kanso made to the press. The barren hills in eastern Lebanon will leave infantry exposed to IS snipers, and the militants are expected to mine the area on a vast scale.

In parallel, Hezbollah announced its militants, joined by Syrian regime forces, carrying out an offensive to control the western Qalamoun groves in Syria.

An hour after the battle launch, President Michel Aoun visited the Ministry of Defense to review the conduct of military operations.

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