Lebanese Army make rapid progress as the third phase to anti-ISIS operations begins

The Lebanese Army announced the third phase to their anti-ISIS operations Fajr al-Juroud (“Dawn of al-Juroud”) on Tuesday morning following significant progress against the group in recent days. Operations today have been limited in the main to clearing previously liberated areas and opening passageways for military vehicles.

However, clashes have taken place between the army and ISIS militants, notably in the area of Ras al-Kaf located around Juroud Ras Baalbek. By late-morning, militants had retreated, leaving the army to conduct search and clearing operations.

Despite the retreat of ISIS militants, clearing operations still remain a dangerous prospect, especially for de-mining teams who attempt to remove latent mines and explosives. Today, the Lebanese army announced that one solider was killed and three wounded after an explosive device was accidentally triggered by de-mining personnel.

The advance of the Lebanese Army during Fajr al-Juroud operations has reduced ISIS’ presence in Lebanon to two pockets of territory, which include the valleys of al-Shahout and Sartibia on the Syrian border to the southeast, and a series of arid areas in the northeast. Furthermore, the army has announced that it lies approximately 500m from the cave of al-Keef, one of ISIS’ most prominent strongholds in the area.

Despite the advance of the Lebanese Army, the mountainous terrain is forming an obstacle to hastening operations. According to Brigadier General, Ali Qansoh, the battle is “one of the most difficult battles fought by the Lebanese army in terms of the particular geography”.

Qansoh further declined to give an estimate to the end date to the battle in light of the ostensible slow down in operations today. “The operation has no expected duration due to the nature of the battle and events on the ground,” Qansoh concluded.