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ISIS planning advance
on Lebanon

A Hezbollah militant looks through his binoculars in Umm Khorj, near the Syrian border, on October 9, 2014, after capturing the area from ISIS. (AFP PHOTO / SAM SKAINE)

The Islamic State jihadist group (ISIS) has made military advances in Qalamoun, and is reportedly preparing to enter Lebanese territory and attack Hezbollah.

 

There have been conflicting reports over ISIS’ planned attack, and it is unclear whether it will be launched in concert with Al-Nusra Front, or whether the two groups will keep battling one another for control of Qalamoun.

 

According to a report by Janoubia.com, ISIS and Al-Nusra commanders had held two meetings, one on Wednesday and a second early Thursday in hopes of reaching an agreement over Qalamoun.

 

During the first meeting, Abu Ali al-Shishani, an Al-Nusra front commander, agreed to pledge allegiance to ISIS, while Abu Malek al-Talli another Nusra commander, refused.

 

Thursday’s meeting resulted in a framework agreement to work together against the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, with the two groups agreeing to form a leadership committee led by Abu Malek and an ISIS commander.

 

The committee began work on a plan to take over Qusayr, Qalamoun, and eventually attack Lebanon’s Shiite-populated city of Baalbek, “to liberate it from Hezbollah,” a well informed source told Janoubia.

 

The source reported that during the meeting, ISIS commanders made it clear that they had no intention of holding Qalamoun for themselves, as they want to avoid air strikes from the international alliance targeting the organization in Iraq and Syria.

 

The two groups also agreed to keep Arsal and the surrounding mountains under the control of the Al-Nusra Front, the source added.

 

Al-Janoubia’s source added that the plan to attack Baalbek is aimed at pressuring Hezbollah and the Syrian regime into giving up in Qalamoun and surrendering it to rebel control, in exchange for the rebels sparing Baalbek.

 

“Al-Nusra Front and ISIS’s plan warns of a black winter and bad days ahead in Baalbek and Hermel.”

 

There are conflicting reports regarding the rapprochement between the groups. Alaraby Aljadeed reported that ISIS has sent a number of its commanders to Qalamoun to bolster a forthcoming military campaign, but according to the London-based daily, the group has forced a number of Al-Nusra Front and Free Syrian Army commanders to pledge their allegiance, threatening to attack brigades that do not comply.

 

The paper added that ISIS has threatened to kill Al-Nusra Front commander Abu Malek if he does not pledge allegiance to the group.

 

Sources told Alaraby Aljadeed that ISIS has set up several training camps in the Qalamoun mountains, and is planning to march on the Lebanese border and take control of Arsal.

 

ISIS reportedly regards Arsal as a weak point that can be used to strike against Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon.

 

There are other reports of continued fighting between the groups as well. Al-Arabiya has reported that ISIS executed FSA Commandos Brigade commander Oraba Idriss and one of his relatives in the FSA, Maan Idriss, in Qalamoun, for refusing to pledge allegiance to the Islamist group.

 

Idriss was one of the most prominent FSA commanders, and fought against Hezbollah in both Qalamoun and Qusayr.

A Hezbollah militant looks through his binoculars in Umm Khorj, near the Syrian border, on October 9, 2014, after capturing the area from ISIS. (AFP PHOTO / SAM SKAINE)

Al-Nusra Front and ISIS’s plan warns of a black winter and bad days ahead in Baalbek and Hermel.