BEIRUT – ISIS has attacked Hezbollah fighters near the Lebanese-Syrian border south of the Homs province town of Qusayr, which the Lebanese group seized in the summer of 2013.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that clashes erupted “after midnight on Monday between Hezbollah and ISIS along the Syrian-Lebanese border near the Jousiya border crossing.”
The monitoring NGO added that there was no readily available information on casualties in the fighting, which comes after reports emerged in late July that ISIS had launched an offensive against Hezbollah near Qusayr.
Lebanon’s state National News Agency, meanwhile, said late Monday that that the Lebanese Armed Forces helped foil an attempt by ISIS to approach the country’s border.
“A group of ISIS militants tried to advance this afternoon towards the Naimat hills from Syria,” the agency reported.
The group came from “inside Syrian territory in an area called Al-Qabou, which is also called Jousiya.”
According to the NNA, there are several military positions in the border area manned by Hezbollah and Syria’s crack Fourth Armored Division.
“[ISIS] clashed with them at the same time as the LAF [carried out] artillery shelling to prevent them infiltrating the Lebanese interior.”
“This forced them to withdraw.”
ARA News, in turn, reported that members of Hezbollah had “withdrawn from three positions on the Jousiya crossing after ISIS members advanced to those areas, amid fierce clashes that left dozens of party members dead.”
“ISIS launched a surprise attack on areas where the Hezbollah militias where based in Jousiya, which is connected to the Bekaa Valley hills and the strategic town of Qusayr,” activist Imad al-Kassir from western rural Homs told the outlet.
However, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television as well as the pro-regime Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar denied that ISIS had seized the Jousiya border crossing.
Naimat hills offensive
The ISIS attack near Jousiya follows on the heels of a purported attack by the militant group against Hezbollah in the strategic Naimat hills area near the Lebanese-Syrian border crossing.
Sky News Arabia reported on July 21 that intense clashes had raged for the previous two days between ISIS and Hezbollah in the Naimat hills area near the city of Qusayr. The station added that both sides had used a wide range of weapons, including heavy armaments.
Meanwhile, a local media activist told Alaraby Aljadeed the same day that ISIS had seized control of the Naimat hills, adding that members of the extremist group “blew up a regime tank… killing all of its crew.”
A number of pro-opposition Syrian outlets ran similar accounts of the fighting in the Naimat Hills, which Hezbollah-affiliated media outlets denied had happened.
“There is no truth to what certain media outlets have circulated about ISIS militants controlling the Naimat Hills adjacent to the town of Qusayr in the countryside of Homs,” Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television claimed.
The Naimat hills located near Lebanon’s border with Syria occupy an important military position outside Qusayr, which itself was considered a strategic gateway for rebel arms before Hezbollah took the town in 2013.
“The eastern part of the elevated location is triangular in shape and is controlled by Hezbollah. It is in this area that most of the clashes have taken place,” according to a report published by Syria Mubasher news at the time.
“The Lebanese Armed Forces are based to the west [inside Lebanon]. Members of ISIS are based to the south.”
“The area’s importance lies in the fact that it is the first point of contact in the direction of the city of Qusayr,” the pro-opposition media outlet added.
“Furthermore, the area contains many fortified Hezbollah, Syrian army and LAF checkpoints.”