Lebanon has been without a president for 279 consecutive days, without an effective parliament for six years, without a government for two weeks and the list goes on.
Despite the fragile political situation plaguing the country and the ensuing threats facing its stability, the Lebanese army offered yesterday [Feb. 26] a decent display of fighting. For the first time ever, the army carried out a pre-emptive operation to protect its positions and defend the residents of the villages of al-Fakiha, Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa from the threat facing the eastern border, and specifically Arsal and Ras Baalbek.
This operation, including the new rules of engagement with terrorist groups, “requires national political protection as well as high and comprehensive security and military readiness, especially considering that this battle is open-ended. It is a battle that is not limited by a timeframe or to a specific arena, and it has no set plans,” a well-informed security source said.
Remarkably, this battle comes 10 days after Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah warned of an inevitable confrontation with terrorist groups following the ice storm. It comes in the context of a military plan drawn up by the army command. This plan involves several pre-emptive operations to be performed whenever possible in the framework of an open-ended battle with terrorism.
Commander of the army, Jean Kahwaji, saluted each military unit deployed along the border, and particularly mentioned the units that achieved a major qualitative breakthrough yesterday [Feb. 26] in a desolate area of Ras Baalbek. He told As-Safir that our military is one of honor, sacrifice and redemption, and this operation is a new achievement to be added to the brave military record.
“Our military has proved that it can achieve victories and fight battles that even the world’s strongest armies can seldom achieve. With whatever equipment and members it has, the army is fighting the fiercest battle against terrorism,” said Kahwaji.
Kahwaji stressed the readiness of the army to face all possibilities. “We will not let takfiri terrorism defeat us, and we will fight an open battle with it. Lebanon will not fall so long as the army is confidently advancing and firmly defending the country while offering endless sacrifices,” he said.
He added that Lebanon “is facing a terrorist and takfiri wave, and the army is responsible for the stability and protection of the country. As I previously said, Lebanon will not be a fertile ground for a [terrorist] environment, and the military’s role will not be limited to deterrence. The army will turn into a sharp sword.”
Military sources told As-Safir that the army commander led a professional military operation of high precision in Ras Baalbek, during which the army’s fourth regiment occupied the two hills of Sadr al-Jarash and Harf al-Jarash, located in the northeast of Talet al-Hamra, after artillery fire and helicopters stormed the terrorist groups’ locations and enabled the military to occupy the hills in record time and make a 500-meter advance from its positions into the barren lands.
The sources pointed out that the army used enormous firepower to catch the terrorists off guard. They fled before the very eyes of the military units toward the Syrian barren lands and left behind many injured and a large amount of gear, weapons, explosives, bombs and explosive belts. One hill was entirely embedded with explosives.
Amid reports that five soldiers, including one officer, were injured by a rocket-propelled grenade that targeted a military vehicle, the Guidance Directorate confirmed that only three soldiers were slightly injured.
Once the army took over the two hills of Sadr al-Jarash and Harf al-Jarash in Ras Baalbek, the military units fortified their centers as they targeted terrorist fortifications, concentration points and roads with artillery and rockets, which definitely caused injuries and fatalities in their ranks.
The sources confirmed the strategic importance of the two hills through the following points:
- They help protect the rear army positions, particularly those that were recently exposed to infiltration attempts.
- They offer direct fire control over the terrorist sites and supply lines between the middle and higher barren lands, which limits their freedom of movement and gives the army the upper hand.
- They are an essential step toward connecting the low barren lands of the eastern Anti-Lebanon Mountains with al-Fakiha’s barren lands, Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa.
- They offer military control over the “lower barren lands,” which facilitates Arsal residents’ access to a large part of their nearby livelihood resources and farms, on the one hand, and staves off the infiltration of militants toward the valley villages on the other. Such a move also barricades the army positions, which will be in control of a large part of Sahl al-Wasaah in the Arsal barren lands. This area separates the middle and higher barren lands.
- This operation conveys a message to the Lebanese interior that the army has the firm will to fight and defeat terrorist groups, which requires all of the Lebanese people to support the army more than ever.
- The military operation sends a message to the countries that promised to send weapons to the army, as the army “has proved its will and determination to fight the battle. However, it is important that the army gets weapons to be able to fight and win this war. Had the army received these weapons, it would have been able to carry out more qualitative operations that could change the entire equation in the barren lands,” the military sources said.
The military operation coincided with a comprehensive mobilization of the army at all of its concentration points in the region, especially after the monitoring of suspicious movements in the vicinity of Arsal.
Security sources in the region told As-Safir that the situation was somehow normal in the entire region; schools, roads and shops operated normally, and the renovated Public Security Center in the town of Arsal witnessed a heavy flow of displaced Syrians who wanted to legalize their stay in Lebanon. Most of them came from camps in the barren lands of Arsal. However, the center could not accommodate more than 400 cases. This will be the case until the illegal displacement dossier is closed across this region. Meanwhile, those who received residencies will be able to move freely on Lebanese territory.
Ministry of Interior statistics indicate that there are 70,000 displaced people in Arsal and its barren lands.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly