Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hezbollah is pushing Nusra Front jihadists into the Syrian refugee camp

BEIRUT: Hezbollah fighters pushed further into the outskirts of a northeastern Lebanese border town Sunday, capturing a set of peaks from Nusra Front jihadis who fled toward a Syrian refugee camp, Al-Manar TV reported.

The Hezbollah-run station said its fighters' latest offensive on the southeastern outskirts of Arsal left scores of militants dead or wounded.

Sunday’s advance forced the militants to flee toward a Syrian refugee camp and an amusement park situated in Wadi al-Hosn, which is very close to Arsal, Al-Manar said.

It added that Hezbollah captured a set of peaks southeast of the Lebanese border town. The hilltop positions overlook the areas of Wadi Atnin and Wadi al-Khayl, which reportedly serve as important bases for Syrian jihadis.

Further east, Hezbollah and the Syrian army captured the Al-Hamra-Qusair crossing which links the outskirts of the Syrian town of Flita to the outksirts of Arsal, Al-Manar said.

Speaking of the town of Arsal,
Arsal has seen its normal 40,000 population nearly double from the influx of refugees from Syria, with tens of thousands more settling in outlying areas. Lebanon has more than 1 million refugees registered with the United Nations from the conflict in Syria, as well as hundreds of thousands of longtime Palestinian refugees spread between nine camps around the country.

Many Lebanese blame the Palestinians for the 1975 to 1990 Lebanese civil war. As a result, the government has been extremely reluctant to allow the establishment of official refugee camps that might become permanent.

A Hezbollah security official, Abu Reda Maqdad, said that the refugee populations _ both Syrian and Palestinian _ have become the group’s main security concern now that the Qalamoun area has been largely pacified.

“When we took Yabroud,” he said, referring to a rebel-controlled Syrian city not far from the Lebanese border that fell to forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in March, “we found the car bomb factory.” That ended the threat of attacks coming from Syria that had included car bombings in Beirut. But he said Hezbollah and the Lebanese now fear extremists are “using the refugee situation to infiltrate the camps and Beirut.”