A Hezbollah member carries a mock rocket next to a poster of the group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BEIRUT - Hezbollah said its forces seized a strategic valley from Sunni Muslim militants on Monday, the latest advance in an offensive to oust jihadists from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border.
The Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah said it had advanced from several directions in the Wadi al-Kheil valley in Juroud Arsal, a barren mountainous border zone that has served as a base for militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
The advance gave Hezbollah control over what had been "the most important base for Nusra Front" in the area, Hezbollah's military media unit said in a statement.
The offensive, launched on Friday by Hezbollah and the Syrian army, has so far focused on militants from al Qaeda's former Syria branch, previously called the Nusra Front.
Hezbollah has reported rapid advances against Nusra fighters. The next target will be territory held by Islamic State militants, local media have reported.
The Syrian army and Hezbollah recaptured the area around the town of Fleita on the Syrian side of the border on Sunday, the Syrian state news agency SANA said.
The offensive has so far killed 19 Hezbollah combatants and more than 130 Sunni militants, according to a security source.
Hezbollah has played a critical part in previous campaigns against Sunni insurgents along Lebanon's border, part of its wider role backing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's six-year-old civil war.
Hezbollah's role has been criticized by its Lebanese political opponents, including Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who is a Sunni.