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Crack Hizballah fighters head for the Lebanese border for huge offensive against Syrian rebels Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Crack Hizballah fighters head for the Lebanese border for huge offensive against Syrian rebels

Thousands of Hizballah militants are fighting in Syria, with many returning dead [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 July, 2017

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Hizballah fighters could soon be fighting in areas around Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, where as many as ten men were killed in army custody earlier this month.

Crack Hizballah units are being diverted from the frontlines in Syria to the Lebanese border, with a huge offensive against rebels on the porous frontier region planned in the coming days.

The militia will head to the border region for an operation that could lead to Hizballah fighters confronting rebels on home turf in eastern Lebanon, Beirut-based The Daily Star reported.

Syrian rebels are known to be operating on both sides of the border, including the mountainous region around Arsal where thousands of refugees are also living in camps having fled the fighting in Syria.

The operation would see Hizballah take a lead role attacking from the east with the Lebanese army preventing rebels moving over the border.

Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah is said to have personally ordered the Shia fighters to return to the Lebanese border region from the frontlines elsewhere Syria.

"The order has been signed and passed on to the field commanders... [who] have the discretion to start the operation when they fit," a security source told The Daily Star.

The offensive would be highly controversial coming just weeks after the Lebanese army raided refugee camps around Arsal, allegedly with the collusion of Hizballah militants who once controlled the region.

At least four Syrian men died in army custody. Photos released by activists showed signs of torture on their bodies.

Lebanese will also be concerned about the safety of nine missing soldiers believed to be held by some 250 jihadi militants around Arsal, the daily reported.

Read also: Syrian refugees 'tortured' during Lebanese army raid on camps

Sources told the Lebanese newspaper they also fear al-Qaeda and IS linked fighters could use Syrian refugees in the camps around Arsal as human shields.

A demonstration in Beirut to show support for refugees was cancelled on Saturday due to "threats".

Moderate rebel groups make up the bulk of the militants operating in the Syria-Lebanon border region with around 800 fighters linked to the Free Syrian Army camped out in the mountainous region.

Syrian regime air strikes on the Lebanese border have already been reported, with Damascus said to be involved in the operation providing air support.

It was hoped that a truce could be arranged with FSA-linked fighters, which would give them safe passage to southern Syria.

Parts of Syria are covered by Russian-Turkish-Iranian sponsored "de-escalation zones", which has seen areas in the north and south of the country enjoying de-facto ceasefires.

But it has enabled the overstretched regime and its proxies - including Hizballah - to concentrate their forces on tactical offensives in Syria.

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