Syria’s regime continued its declarations of strength on Friday’s Army Day, with top military officials following up President Assad’s statement.
Assad’s message had pointed to some concern about the state of the battle against insurgents and the Islamic State, declaring a fight for “our existence”; however, the Defense Minister, General Imad Jassem al-Freij, claimed in a speech to troops that “victory over terrorism is nearly at hand, as terrorists’ morale is plummeting”.
Al-Freij portrayed the opposition as tools of “conspirators or occupiers”, especially Israel: “Takfiri terrorism serves the interests of the Israeli entity which is waging an ongoing aggression against Gaza”.
This week’s Army Day celebrations come amid signs of trouble for the regime and military, with the Islamic State posing a threat throughout northern and eastern Syria and insurgents making gains in the southwest and in Idlib Province in the northwest as well as putting pressure on Hama.
Fighters Kill 2 Lebanese Soldiers, 2 Civilians Amid Dispute over Arrested Insurgent
Fighters killed two Lebanese soldiers in an attack on a checkpoint near the Syrian border on Saturday, following their abduction of two other troops.
The dispute began when Lebanese forces arrested Imad Ahmad Jumaa, saying he belonged to the Syrian insurgent faction Jabhat al-Nusra. according to a security source, as the Lebanese Army freed two troops kidnapped earlier.
Armed men then besieged Government facilities in the border town of Arsal. When their demand for Jumaa’s release was refused, they stormed a police station and freed several Syrian detainees.. Two civilians were reportedly killed trying to stop the attack.
Fighters also intercepted a military vehicle and kidnapped two soldiers in Arsal.
Islamic State Pushed Out of Eastern Villages by Tribal Fighters
Activists confirm reports that the Islamic State has withdrawn from several villages in Deir Ez Zor Province in eastern Syria after clashes with tribal fighters.
Jihadists were pushed out from Abu Hamam, Kashkiyeh, and Ghranij, three villages in which the Shaitat tribe is prominent.
Activist Ward al-Furati said clashes were continuing near al-Bukamal, al-Tayyana, and al-Mayadeen — all captured by the Islamic State this spring as it fought insurgents.
Fighting between the Shaitat tribe and the Islamic State began on Wednesday, after jihadist detained several Shaitat members.
The tribe had earlier promised the Islamic State that it would not oppose the group if its members were not harassed.
On Thursday, Islamic State fighters raided the villages, searching houses and detaining an unknown number of people.