Syrians and Hezbollah consolidate control over border area
Marwan Mughniyeh, a senior commander in Hezbollah whose cousin Imad Mughniyeh was allegedly assassinated by Israel, was killed in fierce battles in Syria on Friday, Syrian opposition sources said.
At the same time, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah said it killed over 20 fighters from Syria’s al-Qaida wing, Jabhat al-Nusra, and destroyed several hideouts and training camps the fighters had set up to launch attacks in Lebanon.
Al-Manar, the Hezbollah-affiliated television station, reported Sunday the Iranian-backed organization and the Syrian army had gained more ground in Assal al-Ward, a strategic area on the Syrian side of the Qalamoun mountain region overlooking Lebanese border towns where Hezbollah has heavy presence.
Three major training camps run by Nusra were destroyed and scores of mines and explosive devices were dismantled, it said.
Fighters from Hezbollah have fought alongside Syrian army forces in Syria’s civil war. Some Lebanese officials have warned Hezbollah against launching a cross-border assault, saying it could drag Lebanon, which suffered its own civil war from 1975 to 1990, further into the Syrian conflict.
Mughniyeh was killed in a battle with rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the Qalamoun region, northeast of Damascus, the sources said.
He was reported to have been the commander of special operations for the Lebanese Shiite militia, which has been fighting alongside regime forces in the Syrian civil war.
The Syrian army backed by Hezbollah fighters, has made advances in mountainous areas along Syria’s border with Lebanon, a Hezbollah official said on Friday.
The push in the Qalamoun mountain range appeared to be preparation for a wider offensive in the border region previously announced by Hezbollah.
In video published by the Syrian Army, fighters are shown firing heavy weaponry on Saturday as they look to gain territory along the border.
Hideouts in the Qalamoun mountains have long allowed al Qaida-linked insurgents to attack Syrian soldiers and Hezbollah fighters in the borderlands along Lebanon’s eastern flank.
On Friday, a Hezbollah source said the army and Hezbollah were in control of around 100 sq kms of the Qalamoun mountains after advances in the strategic areas of Assal al-Ward and Qarna Heights.
The British-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said fighting had continued into Friday.
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