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Qalamoun battle threatens
Lebanon, report says

The expected battle between Syrian rebels and the regime aided by Hezbollah fighters on the Lebanese-Syrian border will have significant repercussions on Lebanon’s security, a report published Friday in As-Safir newspaper said.

 

“The Qalamoun battle threatens to have repercussions on Lebanese territory, given that Liwa al-Islam, headed by Zahran Alloush, has become the main force in recruiting opposition [fighters] on the eastern foothills of Lebanon, in Assal al-Ward, Sahl Rankoush and Housh Arab,” the report in the pro-Syrian regime newspaper explained.

 

It added that this threat “must be taken seriously” because Alloush returned from a visit he made last week to Saudi Arabia, where he met with “the financial and military authority, Director General of Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan.”

 

A source from the Free Syrian Army told the newspaper that the repercussions “will not be restricted to the usual security threats,” but will rather include a wide deployment of Syrian rebels in Lebanese towns.

 

“Large groups of fighters who have retreated from Al-Ghouta and have reorganized their units in Qalamoun might have to withdraw towards Lebanese territory in large numbers in case the Syrian army starts a [military] operation in the region.”

 

The same source added that there are parties who are “planning for withdrawal operations.”

 

The FSA source also noted that a number of rebel brigades, notably Liwa al-Haq which is stationed in Yabroud, have started “opening support and supply lines with Salafist groups in Tripoli, and have delegated some of their leaders to North Lebanon in order to coordinate defense operations in Qalamoun.”

 

The As-Safir report stressed that “it is now certain that the Syrian towns in the Qalamoun [area] located on the foothills of Lebanon’s eastern Mountains have become the headquarters of Syrian Jihadist groups.”

 

These Jihadist groups have “decided to wage a preemptive war on Hezbollah’s environment and Lebanon [in general] through setting up car bombs and sending them to [Hezbollah’s stronghold] Dahiyeh,” according to the same report.

 

However, the date of this imminent battle remains unspecified, as conflicting speculations on the exact timing of the military operations continue to emerge.

 

The report speculated nevertheless that the Syrian army will initiate the battle “in order to prevent opposition fighters from turning Qalamoun into a bastion that threatens Lebanon’s North Beqaa and the International Homs-Damascus highway.”

 

“The [Syrian] army has been monitoring for months the retreat and deployment operations in the mountains of Qalamoun—which have become a stronghold for the armed opposition—and is preparing for a wide-range military operation, the date of which has yet to be specified,” a Syrian security official said.

 

Another source from the FSA explained this “migration” to Qalamoun, citing the increase of disputes between FSA brigades and the “Army of Islam” who now have an “undeclared war” with each other that has caused the series of defeats the opposition incurred in southern Damascus towns.

 

Another reason behind the resettlement of several fighters in Qalamoun is the growing of the Islamists’ authority in Al-Ghouta, and the negotiations a number of FSA brigades have engaged in with the Syrian regime, the source also told the daily.

 

In early October, dozens of Islamist rebel brigades in the Damascus area announced they were forming an "Army of Islam" under the auspices of Liwa al-Islam. The announcement came days after a number of Islamist brigades in northern Syria rejected the authority of the Syrian National Coalition.

 

Reports of an “imminent” battle in the Qalamoun area between opposition fighters on the one hand and the Syrian regime and Hezbollah fighters on the other have emerged since the end of September.

 

Al-Rai Kuwaiti daily reported that Hezbollah fighters, along with troops of the Syrian regime, were allegedly preparing for an offensive against rebel-held Damascus district towns near the Lebanese border.

 

The newspaper's sources claimed that the Lebanese Shiite group and soldiers from the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were masterminding an assault on the border towns of Qalamoun and Zabadani as well as on the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal.

 

Meanwhile, pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper said that Syrian rebel fighters and regime troops were preparing for an imminent clash near the Lebanese border for control over the strategic Joussieh crossing.

 

The report described this battle as “tactically and strategically inevitable” given that the crossing, which the regime had regained control of, is considered “a vital vein that feeds Syrian [rebels] with weapons and fighters.”

 

A video was also posted on YouTube showing a number of rebels loading weapons in trucks in preparation for the predicted Qalamoun battle.

The Qalamoun battle threatens to have repercussions on Lebanese territory.