The Lebanese army seized the headquarters of Jabhat a-Nusra-affiliated Islamist militants in the Sunni-majority city of Tripoli Monday, ending a four-day standoff in Lebanon’s second-largest city that killed 42 and injured more than 100 more, reported Lebanese news agency The Daily Star.
The Tripoli Islamists, while mostly composed of local fighters and dissidents, are widely viewed by the Lebanese press as inspired by Syrian Islamist groups such as al Qaeda linked Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic State, which have engaged with the Lebanese army along the Syrian-Lebanese border.
The southwest Qalamoun mountains are now a Jabhat a-Nusra stronghold and point from which fighters infiltrate northern Lebanon.
In August, Nusra raided the Lebanese town Arsal at the foot of the Qalamoun Mountains, kidnapping several Lebanese army members and setting off a wave of anti-Syrian sentiment throughout the country.
Nusra once controlled towns and villages in the mountain range but were pushed out earlier this year by Hezbollah forces sent to reinforce the Syrian army.
The group conducts raids in Lebanon to put pressure on Hezbollah to leave Syria, saysMohammed Mo’ath, a 26-year-old activist embedded with Qalamoun fighters tells Syria Direct’s Osama Abu Zeid.
Q: Is it possible the battle will move into Lebanon?
There might be a raid against Hezbollah in Lebanon to put more pressure on it to leave Syria. However, the rebels are Syrians who want to liberate Syria, not Lebanon or other lands.
Q: Where are the rebels in Qalamoun concentrated now?
There aren’t any towns or villages under rebel control – they’ve taken to the mountains and caves on the Syrian side [of the border] as their sites.
Q: How do the rebels attack the regime and Hezbollah areas?
When the rebels retreated from the cities and villages of Qalamoun for the mountains at the beginning of April, they brought with them a large amount of ammunition. After they settled, they began attacking Hezbollah sites and taking ammunition from them.
Q: Why don’t the rebels capture the villages?
The rebels learned from previous experiences that controlling a town or a village doesn’t benefit them because the regime will attack the civilians [there]. Rebels changed their tactics to guerilla-style warfare, which causes Hezbollah losses.
Q: Which rebel groups are in Qalamoun?
Local battalions and some fighters from Homs, in addition to Jabhat a-Nusra.
Q: Is the Islamic State present in Qalamoun?
There are some IS fighters but, few. The Lebanese media make their numbers seem huge to create an illusion of their existence.