The fighting in and around the town of Arsal, situated in Lebanon on the Lebanese-Syrian border, persist, and there is growing pressure on Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is close to losing all of its control over the region. HTS finds itself besieged on all sides in less than a third of the area that it once controlled.
The battle in the countryside of the town has reached its fourth day and is nearing its end, according to the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah. The group has announced that it has taken control of the area of Wadi al-Khail, which was one of the most significant strongholds for HTS in the area, with the support of the air cover provided by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). Hezbollah has also claimed control of a number of strategic hills, including the Qalaat al-Hosn highlands, which overlook the Zumrani border crossing with Syria. This has become the first line of direct contact between Hezbollah and ISIS militants in the borders of Syria.
The Lebanese Army, the SAA and Hezbollah are targeting FSA (Free Syrian Army), HTS and ISIS positions together in Syria’s western Qalamoun Mountains and Lebanon’s Arsal Barrens. Over the weekend, these joint forces managed to make gains along the Lebanese-Syrian borderlands and Hezbollah captured a number of villages in the area. Hezbollah was able to take control of the HTS headquarters, which dealt a serious blow to the terrorist group in the region. A number of HTS militants were said to have retreated to ISIS-held parts of the mountains, effectively defecting to the group, despite the fact that certain HTS elements were combating ISIS a number of months ago.
The joint forces’ (Lebanese Army, SAA and Hezbollah) offensive along the Lebanese-Syrian border was launched on Friday, 21 July and they have been making gains against the FSA HTS, ISIS ever since. With the HTS hold weakening, the joint forces will be able to surround ISIS positions further north in the same region.