The Lebanese army pressed its offensive Sunday in the outskirts of the eastern border towns of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, capturing new hills from the Islamic State group, as three soldiers were killed in a landmine explosion.
The three soldiers were en route to participate in the anti-IS operation that began on Saturday, an army source told the AFP news agency.
“An army vehicle was hit by a landmine on the Dawwar al-Njasa road in Arsal’s outskirts at noon today, killing three soldiers and injuring one soldier seriously,” the army said in an official statement.
It said the wounded soldier was evacuated to a hospital for treatment.
A spokesman said Saturday that 20 IS fighters had been killed in the clashes so far, and 10 Lebanese soldiers had been wounded.
During a daily press briefing on the operation, an Army Command spokesman said the army seized control of 30 square kilometers of territory on the second day of the offensive.
He added that the army has so far managed to oust the IS group from 80 out of 120 square kilometers it initially held.
The day also witnessed the destruction of 12 IS posts, the seizure of arms and ammunition and the destruction of a booby-trapped car and a bomb-laden motorbike that were carrying suicide bombers, the army spokesman, Colonel Fadi Abu Eid, announced.
State-run National News Agency meanwhile reported that the army on Sunday captured the Jabal al-Kheshen, Khirbet Daoud, Khirbet al-Tineh and Dhalil Umm al-Jamaa areas in Ras Baalbek’s outskirts from the hands of IS militants.
The advancing troops were backed by airstrikes and artillery and rocket shelling.
Lebanese soldiers were also besieging a number of IS militants in the Wadi Mirtbayya area, according to NNA.
“The army is bolstering its posts and dismantling the landmines and traps that were left behind by the IS group,” the agency added.
Army Commander General Joseph Aoun meanwhile inspected military units deployed in the Ras Baalbek region and toured posts recaptured from the hands of the IS group.
The army began its operation in the mountainous outskirts of Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa early on Saturday, and in the first day captured around 30 square kilometers of territory, a military spokesman said.
“That is around a third of the area controlled by the terrorists,” Brigadier General Nazih Jreij said late Saturday.