HTS being cleared from Arsal as the Lebanese army launches sweeping operations

Clashes between Hezbollah and Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the areas surrounding the city of Arsal, Southern Lebanon have ended. HTS militants have either surrendered to Hezbollah or fled to ISIS held territory.

Areal, which is located on the Lebanese-Syrian border, has suffered from spillover of violence throughout the Syrian War. The HTS (previously known as Jabhat al-Nursa) has established a presence within the Lebanese countryside as they seek to spread their influence to Lebanon.

Some groups have attempted to infiltrate the Syrian refugee camps of Hmayed Valley and the city of Malahi in an effort to create civil unrest and establish a base from which they can covertly plan, co-ordinate and execute attacks against the Lebanese population.

The fiercest battles between HTS and Hezbollah militants took place in the area of Daher al-Howwa in the Arsal countryside. This is the Hezbollah’s de facto base of operations in the area as this was the site from which they exerted control over and co-ordinated their advance to take contested areas from the control of the HTS.

In Arsal, Hezbollah are making sweeping gains in their campaign to eliminate all threats from the HTS and ISIS. (ISIS are located to the north, in Ras Baalbek and the Qa’a Barrens, while the HTS’ presence in Arsal was negligible.) It is estimated that 90 square kilometres of the desolate Arsal countryside is currently under Hezbollah control.

Syrian regime forces have also been combating HTS in the Syrian areas surrounding the border. Previously, the Syrian Air Force continued their raids on the Flitah, which is located in western Qalamoun and which has an area of thirty-five square kilometres.

The violence from the Syrian War has spilled over throughout the Lebanese countryside. Al Qa’a, a town located near the border, has been targeted by ten suicide bombers in the last year.

“My brother died as a result of that bombing. We want the army to fully expel all terrorists and not only in Arsal. We want ISIS militants out of our countryside,” said a resident of al-Qa’a.