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Hezbollah targets rebels around Qalamoun peak.

Summary: Hezbollah and the Syrian army Thursday swept areas surrounding the Qalamoun region's highest peak for "remaining pockets" of jihadis, one day after capturing the strategic territory in fierce fighting that left dozens of militants dead.

BEIRUT: Hezbollah and the Syrian army Thursday swept areas surrounding the Qalamoun region's highest peak for "remaining pockets" of jihadis, one day after capturing the strategic territory in fierce fighting that left dozens of militants dead.

Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV said that Hezbollah and the Syrian army were "clearing" areas around Tallet Moussa and the nearby Jabal al-Barouh for rebel fighters.

The report also said that Hezbollah captured the Dahr al-Hawa peak, located northeast of Lebanese town of Younin Thursday, one day after Hezbollah and the Syrian army wrested full control over Tallet Moussa, which lies around 2,500 meters above sea level.

Hezbollah also seized "illegal crossings" linking the outskirts of Arsal to the outskirts of Ras al-Maara, as the party continues to cut off militant supply routes between Lebanon and Syria.

The latest advances may prevent ISIS and the Nusra Front from entering Lebanese territory along the eastern frontier with Syria, especially given that Hezbollah and the Syrian army also now control Tallet Moussa, which overlooks the vast expanse of the Qalamoun mountain range.

The site could be used to monitor militant movements as far as the outskirts of the northeastern Lebanese border town of Arsal. This position allowed Hezbollah and the Syrian army to foil militant infiltrations into the outskirts of Lebanese border towns overnight Wednesday, Al-Manar said.

A security source told The Daily Star that Hezbollah and Syrian army forces clashed with militants in Jabal al-Barouh Thursday. The source said that Hezbollah was likely to capture the peak of Jabal al-Barouh after pounding militants with rockets.

Full control of Jabal al-Barouh and Tallet Moussa will allow Hezbollah and the Syrian army to secure the M5 highway linking Damascus to Homs.

Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah fighters, Wednesday also seized control of about 50 percent of the outskirts of Ras al-Maara and advanced toward the highlands of Jabal al-Barouh, which is geographically linked to Tallet Moussa. Hezbollah and the Syrian army captured the area after fierce clashes left scores of militants dead or wounded. The advance pushed militants toward the outskirts of Arsal, namely the areas of Wadi al-Rahwe and Wadi Hmaid.

Militants also withdrew toward Tallet Njasa, located on the outskirts of the Lebanese town of Ras Baalbek.

Hezbollah officials Thursday congratulated fighters after the party's victory a day earlier.

Hezbollah MP Hussein Musawi lauded the party's "military accomplishments" in Qalamoun in a statement Thursday, describing the offensive as a "preventive operation that secured the eastern frontier and Bekaa Valley villages from the threat of takfiri groups."

Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Qassem said the party's advance in the Qalamoun mountain range serves to "protect Lebanon, the resistance and [Hezbollah's] political project and decision."

Hezbollah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc also commended the party's success in the area straddling Lebanon's eastern border, saying in a statement that the battle was "a national duty necessitated by the people's interests and their right to security and dignity."

"The sacrifices that are made in this regard, and the victories accomplished, will reflect positively on the security and strength of all the Lebanese," the statement added.

Also Wednesday, relatives and comrades of Hezbollah fighter Ahmad Toufic al-Amin, who was killed while fighting in Qalamoun, laid him to rest during his funeral procession in the south Lebanon village of Bablieh. Amin's family, friends and comrades threw rice and rose petals on the coffin, which was draped in Hezbollah's golden yellow flag.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:May 15, 2015
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