An RT crew travelled to eastern Lebanon to document the results of an offensive by Hezbollah militia which saw up to 90 Al-Nusra militants killed and an area of 100 square kilometers liberated in the mountainous terrain near the town of Arsal on the border with Syria. Some 200 more terrorists were surrounded and reportedly agreed to leave Lebanon for Syria.
There was a mixed response to the operation, but Hezbollah, which is backing the Lebanese forces in the fight against the insurgents, consider it a success. Both Hezbollah and Lebanese Army flags were raised at the site to announce the victory as a joint effort, despite the army taking a back seat in the operation.
Despite the Arsal victory, Lebanon is experiencing shortage of arms and logistical support in its fight against terrorist groups, which include Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).
Lebanon has been trying to get the much-needed supplies from nations such as Russia and Iran. However, it has been prevented from doing so by its American allies, Obeid, a political analyst and a former Lebanese MP, told RT’s Eisa Ali.
“We don’t need any airstrikes support, we need that the Americans, especially that the Americans won’t allow to get weapons and arms from Russia and even from Iran or any other countries that support the Lebanese army… allow the Lebanese army to evacuate this area from Daesh, to destroy them and throw them out,” Obeid said.
While obstructing the weapon sales from other countries, Washington is not rushing to provide arms support to the Lebanese forces either.
When asked why, Obeid said it was because the US “don’t want the Lebanese army to have an appropriate power because they think that the Lebanese army in the future would use these weapons against Israel.”
He explained that even the thought of US weapons being used by Lebanon against Israel will sour relations between Washington and its key Middle Eastern ally in Tel Aviv.
“In the past there were investigations about the bullets the Lebanese army used against the Israelis, if they are brought by the United States or not.”
In the course of the battle on the outskirts of Arsal that concluded earlier this week, Hezbollah fighters managed to recapture a cave that served as the headquarters of Al-Nusra Front militants. Hezbollah said it was ready to hand over the territory reclaimed from the militants to the Lebanese army if asked to do so.
Ali toured the vast cave captured by Hezbollah after Al-Nusra Front militants fled. Inside, he discovered a cache of abandoned weapons, including rockets, missile launchers, anti-tank grenades and various types of artillery and munition piled up on the floor.
He also saw what served as the militants’ as sleeping and resting quarters with religious books read by the fighters during rare respites. There were also strewn blankets, spaghetti packs and egg boxes.
A special place was allocated for a kitchen and a planning room, where the militants were conjuring up battle plans. Maps were still pinned to walls. There was also enough room for prison cells where terrorists held captives.
The militia surrounded some 200 Al-Nusra militants before negotiating a ceasefire agreement, stipulating that they must depart for Idlib and swap prisoners with Hezbollah, according to Mohammed Afeef, Head of Hezbollah’s media office.
Aleef said five Hezbollah fighters have been held captive since the end of the hostilities, adding, that he hopes they would be returned safely.
Hezbollah commanders told Ali that they had lost 26 fighters in the clashes with the militants, which rebranded themselves as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in January this year.
Earlier this week, the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Al-Hariri, announced he was going to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin for Moscow’s support in the fight against terrorism during his visit to Moscow on September 11.
“We will discuss everything – the situation in Lebanon, in the region. We will ask his help in the fight against Islamic State and to the Lebanese army,” Al-Hariri said in an interview with RIA Novosti Wednesday.