Lebanese army to deploy along entire eastern border, says army chief
Lebanon’s army will deploy along the country’s entire eastern border with Syria and remain stationed there after recently recapturing areas from Islamic State (IS) group militants, army chief General Joseph Aoun said on Friday.
The remarks appeared to confirm comments by the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah that it was handing over points it had controlled along the border to the military.
“The army will deploy from now onwards along the extent of the eastern borders, to defend them,” Aoun said at a ceremony commemorating Lebanese soldiers killed by IS.
The bodies of the 10 soldiers captured and killed by IS were recovered late last month following an army offensive to wipe out hundreds of IS militants who had occupied parts of the Lebanese-Syria border region since 2014.
The army offensive ended with the militants withdrawing from their last foothold along the border under a ceasefire deal. The Syrian army and Hezbollah fought the militants separately on the Syrian side.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in July it would be ready to hand over territory it captured if the Lebanese army requested it.
Hezbollah led a campaign in the same area that month to oust the Nusra Front militant group from their last foothold along the border.
Security sources said Hezbollah had begun handing over points it controlled.
Iran-backed Hezbollah has played a critical role in vanquishing Sunni Muslim fighters in the border region during the six-year-long Syrian war, part of its military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The group, an ally of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, was key to the defeat of militants in the Qalamoun area further south in 2015, and at the Syrian town of Qusair, in 2013.
Lebanon’s southern border with Israel, a Hezbollah foe, is patrolled by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.