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Calm prevails in Beqaa’s Arsal

BEIRUT - Calm prevailed on Thursday in the Beqaa town of Arsal, after the Islamist militants withdrew from the town and redeployed along the border with Syria, the National News Agency reported.

According to the report, the army combed the area of Ras al-Sarj in the town and deployed in a number of streets.

Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh told LBC that a Red Cross convoy entered Arsal and evacuated 42 wounded people and took them to hospitals in the Beqaa.

 

The Red Cross helped treat 38 Syrians and 4 Lebanese.

 

Muslim Scholars Committee member Sheikh Hassan al-Ghali said that Islamist militants withdrew from Arsal overnight.

“The town of Arsal is almost empty from gunmen, after they withdrew overnight,” Ghali said in a press conference.

Ghali also said that the Muslim Scholars Committee would continue its negotiations “with the concerned parties in Arsal” to release the army and security forces members kidnapped by the Islamists.

 

On Wednesday, a delegation of sheikhs visited Arsal to negotiate a ceasefire and returned from the embattled town with three released soldiers and an agreement for militants to withdraw from the border town and free remaining hostages.

The Muslim Scholars Committee announced in a press conference in Ras Baalbek that militants had "pledged" to withdraw incrementally from the town before the expiration of a ceasefire that was extended until Thursday evening.

The Muslim Scholars Committee delegation had earlier left Arsal with three released soldiers after holding talks with militants in Arsal's Ismail Mosque, during which the Islamists also promised not to hurt any of their other hostages.

The Sunni clerics also announced in their press conference that militants were holding 17 Internal Security Forces members in addition to 10 Lebanese army soldiers, which would leave 9 soldiers unaccounted for after the Lebanese army had previously said it lost contact with 22 soldiers during the fighting.

Fighting between Islamic militants and the LAF in Arsal has left at least 15 soldiers dead since clashes erupted Saturday after the arrest of Al-Nusra Front commander Imad Jumaa.

The violence comes amid renewed fighting in the Qalamoun border region, where Hezbollah fighters and Syrian regime forces are locked in a fierce battle with rebels.

  • Beiruti

    How peculiar that they would all just evacuate Arsel after such a bitter fight. The LAF was clearly in need of resupply of ammunition at the time of the cease fire, presumably the ISIS was in the same condition or worse and so they have decided to move off. I had heard that the Arsel project would take, optimistically, one month, possibly a year, and most likely until Christmas. It is good news that things have cleared so quickly, after less than one week. God bless the Army, is what any idealistic Lebanese would say. Now the cynic or the conspiracy nuts would say that Hezbollah and Assad cooked this up by engaging the ISIS at Qalamoun, which drove them to Lebanon, and this fight was conducted in Lebanon in order to enhance the standing of Jean Qahwaji, as Army Commander, to become the new President of the Republic. The quick victory of course makes the enhancement even greater. A conspiratorial cynic would think such a thing.

    August 7, 2014