The elite Republican Guard of the Syrian Arab Army along with Hezbollah and the volunteer militia National Defence Force have begun heavy operations along the Syria-Lebanon border against entrenched Salafist militants including al-Qaeda forces (known locally by the name Jabhat Fatah al-Sham formerly al-Nusra and Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham)
The operation is intended to rid the mountainous western Qalamoun region of terrorists who have taken advantage of the foreboding terrain.
“Backed by heavy airstrikes from their air force, the Syrian Arab Army and their allies stormed the large hilltop of Tal Burkan near the Faleeta Barrens; this resulted in a fierce battle with the Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham militants positioned there.
Unable to hold their own at Tal Burkan, the militants from Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (an al-Qaeda offshoot) were forced to concede the hilltop to the Syrian Republican Guard and their allies.Not long after taking control of Tal Burkan, the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah forces began their assault on the nearby hilltops, inflicting heavy damage on the jihadist defences.
The operation that was launched tonight is the third and final phase of the western Qalamoun offensive; its success will guarantee the security of the Syrian-Lebanese border”.
The multi-front assault on mountainous Lebanese border regions is significant in several ways.
1. Securing the border
In recent months, the Syrian Arab Army has taken control of border crossings with Jordan as well as reached the border with Iraq in Syria’s south-east near Iraq’s Al-Anbar Governorate. Reports surfaced that Syrian troops and Iraqi troops greeted each other in a fraternal demonstration of friendship.
With the Battle of Mosul declared won by Iraq, the next logical border to secure is that with Lebanon. Al-Qaeda has been able to exploit the foreboding and therefore difficult to police border through much of the duration of the conflict in western Syria.
Once the border is secure, the next issue will be dealing with the borders of Syria’s most militarily strong neighbours, Turkey and Israel. Right now American bases and Kurdish fighters dominate Syria’s long northern border with Turkey while Israel has announced that it is set to aid jihadists in its hospitals along its border with Syria which includes the illegally occupied Syrian Golan Heights which Israel annexed in 1981 after taking the area in 1967.
2. Syria shows confidence
The sheer scale of Syria’s anti-terrorist operations in Lebanon demonstrate that enough of Syria is secure that the Syrian Arab Army and Airforce now have the confidence to dedicate a significant number of men and aircraft to the fight.
Previously, terrorists took shelter in Lebanon knowing that the Syrian Arab Army was preoccupied in other more populated parts of the country.
This is a clear indication that the war in western Syria is in its final phases.
3. Hezbollah is now Lebanon’s most important fighting force
While Lebanese forces are commencing operations against al-Qaeda in other parts the country, Hezbollah are doing the lion’s share of the heavy fighting.
In spite of its volunteer origins, Hezbollah’s fighters are now among the most professional not only in Lebanon but in the wider region. Many Lebanese have come to recognise Hezbollah’s increasingly integral role in securing Lebanon from further terrorist incursions.
The fighting shows no signs of abating as Syria, Hezbollah and their allies continue to make significant gains.