Hezbollah says operations on each side of Syria border; Lebanese army says “no coordination”
Hezbollah and the Lebanese army have declared a mutual offensive against the Islamic State on both sides of the Syria-Lebanon border.
The army began operations on Friday near the town of Ras Baalbek in the northeast of the country on Friday, attacking hundreds of fighters in an Islamic State enclave with rockets, artillery, and fire from helicopters. The head of the Lebanese army, Chief Gen. Joseph Aoun announced the “Dawn of Outskirts” operations, “We are looking forward to victory.”
Meanwhile, Hezbollah and the Assad regime’s military moved against ISIS positions in the western Qalamoun region. Hezbollah said in a statement said it was fulfilling a pledge to “remove the terrorist threat at the borders of the nation” and was fighting “side by side” with the Assad regime. It did not mention the Lebanese army’s operations; however, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently promised a simultaneous offensive.
The Lebanese security source said “each side is working alone”, but a commander of pro-Assad forces said that “naturally” there was coordination.
Last month Hezbollah pursued attacks to force out rebels and elements of the jihadist bloc Hayat Tahrir al-Sham from northern Lebanon, just after the Lebanese army raided Syrian refugee camps in the Arsal area. The operations culminated with the displacement of fighters and about 8,000 civilians back into opposition areas in Syria.
Any open coordination between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army could unsettle Lebanon’s coalition government, in which Hezbollah is involved. It could also put US military aid at risk — Washington only recently confirmed more assistance to Beirut.
Donald Trump called Hezbollah “a menace” to Lebanon during a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in Washington last month, while promising ongoing American support for the Lebanese army.
“Very Shocking” Conditions in Camps for People Fleeing Raqqa
The Red Cross has described an atrocious situation for civilians fleeing Raqqa in northern Syria, as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are trying to take the Islamic State’s central position in the country.
About 40 camps now have between 2,000 and 10,000 people, with more arriving every day. But Red Cross spokesman Ingy Sedky said, “Conditions are very shocking. Some of the worst I’ve seen.”
Newcomers in some camps said they had no place to sleep and no doctor to assess their health, including the suffering from dehydration.
Activists have labeled the facilities “death camps” and blamed the SDF for the situation. Sedky confirms reports of deaths when he spoke of meeting a father whose newborn baby had died due to lack of medical care in the heat.
“It was heartbreaking. He kept pulling out his phone to show us photographs,” she said.
More than 200,000 people have fled areas near Raqqa since April amid the SDF offensive.
Demonstration in Homs Province Calls for Assad Departure
A Friday rally in Talbiseh in Homs Province calls for victory of the Revolution and the departure of Bashar al-Assad from power:
A demonstration in Daraa Province in southern Syria:
Claim: Another Regime Chemical Attack in NE Damascus
Activists report another regime attack with “toxic gas” early Saturday on Jobar in northeast Damascus.
Clinics received patients with breathing difficulties just after midnight:
— AEJ خليل ้้้้้็็็็🔵 (@AEJKhalil) August 19, 2017
The regime’s military used chemicals, probably chlorine, on seven occasions in July. Five were on Jobar and Ein Tamra, where pro-Assad forces have tried for months to break rebel resistance.
Despite airstrikes and bombardment as well as the chemical attacks, the pro-Assad offensive has been unable to make significant gains and has reportedly taken heavy casualties. Rebels said this week that more than 50 pro-Assad troops had been killed and more than 80 wounded.
The White Helmets civil defense also said three civilians from the same family were killed in Hamouriya by pro-Assad artillery fire on Saturday. a
Rebel Faction Says It Reached Ceasefire Agreement With Russians
The attack came despite an announcement by leading rebel faction Failaq al-Rahman on Friday that it reached an agreement with Russia for a ceasefire in Jobar and in the East Ghouta area near Damascus.
Failaq al-Rahman said the agreement was reached on Wednesday and entered into force at 10 pm on Friday. The faction said the regime siege on East Ghouta will be lifted.
The details of the agreement will be announced at a press conference on Monday, the statement declared.
Russia’s Defense Ministry announced in late July that an agreement for a “de-escalation zone” had been reached for East Ghouta, but details were vague and pro-Assad attacks continued on Jobar, Ein Tarma, and other areas.