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Hezbollah mobilizes for decisive Qalamoun battle

Hezbollah has announced a general mobilization within its ranks in preparation for a decisive battle against Islamist militants in Syria’s Qalamoun mountains expected to break out between April 1 and April 15, security sources said.

Hezbollah’s military operations against Syria-based jihadis will be carried out in coordination with the regular Syrian army through a joint operations room in rural Damascus commanded by a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah military commission, the sources said. They added that Hezbollah, which is receiving military supplies from Iran, has begun logistical preparations for the battles.

According to sources familiar with the situation on the eastern border with Syria, Hezbollah has divided the Qalamoun region into two axes as part of its readiness for the battles with ISIS and Nusra Front gunmen holed up in caves in rugged mountainous areas near the border with Lebanon.

The first axis includes the villages of Nabk, Yabroud and Asal al-Ward. Located near the northeastern town of Arsal, this area is of strategic importance because it is considered an important outlet on the Homs international highway and it is also a pivotal supply route for Hezbollah, the sources said.

The second axis includes the towns of Zabadani and Rankous up to the Lebanese Shebaa area in the south, they said.

Hezbollah has set up fortifications, earthen mounds, snipers and cannon positions on the outskirts of the town of Nahle near the eastern city of Baalbek in an attempt to monitor the routes through which the militants infiltrate into Arsal, the same sources said.

According to the sources, Hezbollah has deployed rocket launchers in the town of Younin and on the outskirts of the villages of Janta and Al-Shaara near the border with Syria as well as in the towns of Labweh, Al-Ain, Al-Bazaliyeh and Nabi Othman in the northern Bekaa region.

The rocket launchers are supervised by Hezbollah military commanders brought from their positions in south Lebanon.

The Hezbollah military buildup comes as security officials have voiced their fears of an inevitable fierce confrontation between the Shiite party and ISIS in the Bekaa Valley anytime between April and May.

ISIS appears to have completed its preparations for the battles in the northern and central Bekaa regions and is trying to use the card of kidnapped soldiers to destabilize Lebanese areas near the border with Syria for two reasons: reducing the increased pressure on it inside Syria and compensating the possible losses resulting from the airstrikes launched by the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq, the officials said.

ISIS and Nusra Front are still holding hostage 25 Lebanese servicemen captured during the fierce fighting with the Lebanese Army in Arsal last August.

Among Hezbollah’s preparations for what has been dubbed by the local media the “spring battle,” it was reported that the party has transferred one of its “rocket units” from the western Bekaa region to hills on the outskirts of the village of Brital and nearby villages, including a mountainous area inside Syrian territory.

The sources familiar with the situation on the eastern border with Syria said Hezbollah, in coordination, Jihad al-Binaa, a Hezbollah-affiliated development and construction company, has built a large sophisticated tunnel network in the Qusair region extending deep into Lebanese territory.

The aim of these tunnels, which are equipped with a sophisticated protection system, an air conditioning system, lighting and communication equipment and bedrooms, is to secure safe routes to Hezbollah fighters other than those exposed to the militants.

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