Syrian army, Hezbollah advancing in border area against jihadists

Al-Qaida’s Nusra Front in the Qalamoun region promises to “eradicate” Islamic State “because there is no longer any other option.”

Members of al-Qaida's‏ Nusra Front [File] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Members of al-Qaida's‏ Nusra Front [File]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Syrian Army, along with allied Hezbollah, took over additional territory on Tuesday in continuing clashes in the Qalamoun border region along the Lebanese-Syrian border, as al-Qaida’s Nusra Front promised to “eradicate” Islamic State.
Al-Qaida’s Nusra Front and other allied groups in the Qalamoun region had been clashing with the fellow jihadi group, the Lebanese Daily Star reported.
The Twitter accounts of Nusra Front and the Army of Conquest, a coalition of Sunni jihadi groups led by the al-Qaida affiliate, declared their intention to destroy Islamic State.
“A decision has been made by the working factions to eradicate this corruptive group, because there is no longer any other option, and Allah be the helper,” the statement said according to the report. The statement claimed that Islamic State’s killing of jihadi leaders was a main reason leading to the decision.
Over the past 24 hours the Syrian Army and Hezbollah fighters regained control of Syria’s Barouh mountain, Iran’s Fars News Agency reported.
Also in the past day, dozens of Islamic State fighters were killed in operations in Homs province, including one armored vehicle, said a military source quoted in the report. Hezbollah and the Syrian army took three hilltops from the rebels in the border area during the fighting.
In Barouh, several Syrian rebels were killed, including Nusra Front commander Abu Khaled, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television as reporting.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed Hezbollah’s advance on Monday and reported that both sides suffered casualties.
Hezbollah said on Sunday it had killed over 20 fighters from Syria’s al-Qaida wing and destroyed several hideouts and training camps the fighters had set up to launch attacks in Lebanon across the rugged border with Syria.
The Syrian Army, along with Hezbollah, has regained much of the strategic Qalamoun region north of Damascus since last year. But hundreds of Syrian jihadist rebels have retreated to the mountains to conduct guerrilla hit-and-run attacks.
Meanwhile, an aid groups says some 5.1 million Syrians live in areas at high risk from explosive weapons, some of which fail to detonate and so will pose a deadly threat for years to come.
The global charity Handicap International examined 78,000 violent incidents in Syria’s war between December 2012 and March 2015 and found that more than 80 percent involved highly destructive weapons such as rockets, mortars and bombs, rather than light arms.
“Syria will inherit the deadly legacy of explosive weapons for years,” said Anne Garella, regional coordinator of Handicap International.
The conflict is in its fifth year, having killed more than 220,000 people, according to a UN estimate. More than 1.5 million people have been injured, according to the Observatory.
A range of insurgent groups have been battling the Syrian military and allied fighters.
US-led air forces have been bombing Islamic State terrorists since last summer.
The Handicap International study found that three-quarters of the incidents it recorded took place in populated areas.
“This suggests that belligerents have no intention of effectively distinguishing between civilians and combatants – which constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law,” said the group.