The Lebanese army announced on Saturday the start of an offensive against Daesh close to the Syrian border in the east of the country.
“In the name of Lebanon, in the name of kidnapped Lebanese soldiers, in the name of martyrs of the army, I announce that (this) operation…. has started,” said army chief General Joseph Aoun.
The operation started as Hezbollah and the Syrian army announced an assault from the Syrian side of the border.
The Lebanese army was targeting Daesh positions near the town of Ras Baalbek with rockets, artillery and helicopters, a source said. The area is the last part of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier under insurgent control.
“We started advancing at 5am (0200 GMT),” the Lebanese source said.
The operation by the Syrian army and Hezbollah, an Iran-backed Lebanese group, was targeting Daesh militants in the western Qalamoun region of Syria, the Hezbollah-run Al Manar television station reported, an area across the frontier from Ras Baalbek.
Last month, Hezbollah forced Nusra Front militants and Syrian rebels to leave nearby border strongholds in a joint operation with the Syrian army.
The Lebanese army, a major recipient of US military aid, did not take part in the July operation, but it has been gearing up to assault the Daesh pocket in the same mountainous region. A military source said around 500 Daesh fighters were holed up in the enclave.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun was following the army operation, called “Jroud Dawn”. “Jroud” refers to the barren, mountainous border area between Lebanon and Syria.
Lebanese security sources have previously said the army intends to fight Daesh in Lebanese territory on its own, in response to suggestions Hezbollah or the Syrian army may help it.