Qalamoun offensive (2017)

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Qalamoun offensive (2017)
Part of the Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon and Syrian Civil War
Battle of Western Qalamoun.svg
Battle of Western Qalamoun (2013–2017)

     Syrian Government & Hezbollah control      Lebanese Government & Hezbollah control      Syrian Opposition control

For a war map of the current situation in Rif Dimashq, see here.
Date21 July 2017 – 28 August 2017
(1 month and 1 week)
Location
Result

Decisive Syrian Army, Hezbollah and Lebanese Army victory

  • Saraya Ahl al-Sham surrender, transferred with their families to eastern Qalamoun[4]
  • 7,000 Syrian refugees and Tahrir al-Sham fighters transferred to Idlib[5]
  • Hezbollah took over the Arsal valley[6] and concluded a ceasefire with members of Tahrir al-Sham on the transfer to the province of Idlib[7]
  • ISIL remnants agree to withdraw to Abu Kamal.[8]
  • The Lebanese Army and Syrian Army gain full control of the Syrian-Lebanese border for the first time in six years.[9]
  • End of the Syrian Civil War spillover in Lebanon
Belligerents

Hezbollah
Syria Syrian Arab Republic
 Iran[1]


Lebanon Lebanon
Support:

Tahrir al-Sham Surrendered[3]


Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army  Surrendered
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Surrendered
Commanders and leaders

Hassan Nasrallah
(Secretary-General of Hezbollah)
Iran Qasem Soleimani[1]


Lebanon Joseph Aoun
(Commander of the LAF)
Abu Malek al-Tali Surrendered
(HTS emir of Qalamoun)C
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Muawfaq Abu al-Sus Surrendered[10]
(ISIL emir of Qalamoun)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Ahmad Wahid al-Abd Surrendered[11]
(ISIL commander and high-ranking jurist)
Units involved

Hezbollah

Syrian Armed Forces

Iran Quds Force[1]


Lebanon Lebanese Armed Forces

United States special operations forces[2]

Tahrir al-Sham


Free Syrian Army

 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant

Strength

4,000


Lebanon 3,000
1,500 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant 600[16]
Casualties and losses

24 killed[17][18]
Syria Several killed[1]
Iran 4 killed[1]

Lebanon 3 killed[19]
150 killed[17] 20 killed,[16] 100+ surrendered[20]

The Qalamoun offensive (2017) was a military operation launched by Hezbollah, the Syrian Armed Forces, and later the Lebanese Armed Forces, against members of Tahrir al-Sham and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on the Lebanon–Syria border. The Lebanese Army denied any coordination with Hezbollah or the Syrian Arab Army.[21][22][23]

The offensive[edit]

First phase: Clearing of Tahrir al-Sham[edit]

The Lebanese group Hezbollah, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and the Syrian Arab Army launched a major operation on 21 July 2017, to destroy the pockets of HTS and ISIL fighters on the Lebanon-Syria border.[24] During the offensive, the Lebanese Army assumed a defensive position in Arsal.[25] By the following day, Hezbollah reportedly captured key points near the border, including the strategic hilltop of Dhahr al-Huwa, a former Tahrir al-Sham (al-Nusra Front) base.[26] As of 23 July, the Syrian Army captured 36 square miles of terrain on the Syrian side of the border.[27]

On 27 July, a three-day ceasefire agreement was reached by Hezbollah with Tahrir al-Sham and Saraya Ahl al-Sham in the Lebanese portion of the Qalamoun Mountains. The agreement called for Tahrir al-Sham forces to withdraw from Lebanon to Idlib, Saraya Ahl al-Sham forces to withdraw to the eastern Qalamoun Mountains, where rebel forces maintain a pocket of control, and exchanges of prisoners from both sides.[28] On the same day, Hezbollah announced that there would be further military operations against the ISIL pocket.[29]

Second phase: Offensive against ISIL[edit]

On 4 August, Hezbollah commander Hasan Nasrallah announced that the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah would participate in the recapture of the ISIL pocket on the Syrian-Lebanese border for the first time since 2013.[29] The Lebanese Army announced that it will not coordinate with the Syrian Army during the offensive.[21] Two days later, the Lebanese Armed Forces launched an assault on ISIL positions near the Shabeb Canyon. After a series of intense clashes, the Lebanese Army captured the sites and pushed on to the Abu 'Ali and al-Dalel al-'Aqra hills in the Ras Ba'albak region. The hills were also eventually seized.[30] Further Lebanese Army advance was reported on the countryside of Jaroud Arsal and Ras Balbak involving mechanised forces.[31]

In the morning of 19 August, the Lebanese Army renewed its offensive against ISIL in the Lebanese portion of the Qalamoun Mountains, while the Syrian Army and Hezbollah launched an offensive in the Syrian side of the border.[32] Later in the day Syrian Arab Army's Republican Guard and Hezbollah captured Abu Khadeir and Mass’oud valleys, Sha’abat Srour, Qabr Al-‘Arsali, Khirbat Al-‘Aylat, Abu Khadeij Point, and Shalouf Point alongside the border with Lebanon.[33]

On 25 August, around 100 ISIL fighters surrendered to Hezbollah on the Syrian side of the western Qalamoun Mountains. By the same day, ISIL held only 40 square kilometres of territory on the border.[20] On 27 August, the Lebanese Army announced a ceasefire in order to negotiate over 9 Lebanese soldiers who were captured by ISIL during the Battle of Arsal in August 2014.[34]

On 27 August, the remaining ISIL holdouts in the western Qalamoun agreed to the ceasefire with the Lebanese Army in Lebanon and Hezbollah and the Syrian Army on the Syrian side of the border. On the next day, ISIL fighters burned their headquarters in the area, and prepared to be transferred to Abu Kamal. This was the first time that such a large group of ISIL fighters had agreed to a surrender deal. [35]

Aftermath[edit]

On 29 August, a first convoy of about 400 ISIL fighters and their families were transported from the Lebanon-Syria border towards Abu Kamal in Deir ez-Zour. As the convoy of evacuated ISIL fighters and their families moved from the exchange point toward Abu Kamal, it was bombed by CJTF–OIR. The coalition stated that it "was not a party to any agreement between Lebanese Hezbollah, the Syrian regime and ISIS" and that it would not allow the "further transport of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners". CJTF–OIR also claimed that their attack had only targeted the road and "individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS", not the civilians accompanying the convoy.[36][8][35] Consequently, the convoy of ISIL fighters became stranded in central Syria between Humayma and al-Sukna as the coalition maintained that they would not allow the convoy to continue.[37] After hearing of this convoy's fate, a second group of 113 ISIL militants and their families from Qalamoun decided to refrain from trying to reach Abu Kamal. Instead, they left ISIL and fully surrendered to the Syrian government, which settled them in Palmyra under security supervision.[38]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Shocking Dead numbers of Hezbollah and Qalamoun shield militias in Arsal battles". Nedaa. 23 July 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b "US Special Forces operating in Lebanon 'close to Hizballah'". The News Arab. 6 August 2017.
  3. ^ Joscelyn, Thomas (27 July 2017). "Breaking: Syrian Army, Hezbollah begin last phase of Qalamoun offensive". Breaking: Syrian Army, Hezbollah begin last phase of Qalamoun offensive. AMN ALl Masdar News. Retrieved 27 July 2017. Breaking: Syrian Army, Hezbollah begin last phase of Qalamoun offensive.
  4. ^ "Last rebel faction leaves mountains on Syrian-Lebanese border alongside displaced". Syria Direct. 14 August 2017.
  5. ^ Jesse Marks (10 August 2017). "Preventing Forced Return in Lebanon and the Greater Levant". The Stimson Center.
  6. ^ "Hezbollah issues ultimatum to Sunni jihadists in Arsal battle". Al Bawaba. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  7. ^ "Hezbollah acting alone in Qalamoun: social affairs minister". The Daily Star Newspaper – Lebanon. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Islamic State prepares to evacuate Syria-Lebanon border zone". Reuters. 28 August 2017.
  9. ^ Final Map of the Syrian-Lebanese border after ISIL surrender. Al-Masdar News.
  10. ^ "ISIS forces in east Lebanon, west Syria seek evacuation to Deir Ezzor". al-Masdar News. 23 August 2017.
  11. ^ "More about the ISIS Jurist who surrendered to Hezbollah Militia". Zaman al-Wasl. 22 August 2017. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  12. ^ Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi (17 January 2017). "Quwat Dir' Al-Qalamoun: Shifting Militia Links". Syria Comment. Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  13. ^ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C_9ULWjVwAA-6UL.jpg
  14. ^ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C_9UM6lUQAI8P9f.jpg
  15. ^ https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C_9UOx0VwAAS3NM.jpg
  16. ^ a b "Lebanese army, Hezbollah announce offensives against Islamic State on Syrian border". 19 August 2017 – via Reuters.
  17. ^ a b Davison, John. "Lebanon's Hezbollah faces tough terrain in border battle".
  18. ^ News, ABC. "After deal, IS allowed to leave Syria-Lebanon border area".
  19. ^ "Three Lebanese soldiers killed in landmine on Syria border: security source". 20 August 2017 – via Reuters.
  20. ^ a b "Dozens of Daesh surrender to Hezbollah in Qalamoun". The Daily Star. 25 August 2017.
  21. ^ a b "No coordination between Lebanon and Syrian armies against IS: Lebanese military source". Reuters. 5 August 2017.
  22. ^ Lebanese army, Hezbollah announce offensives against Islamic State on Syrian border Reuters, 19 August 2017.
  23. ^ "ISIL mine kills three Lebanese troops on Syrian border". www.aljazeera.com.
  24. ^ Walsh, Declan (21 July 2017). "Hezbollah and Syrian Army Attack Islamists on Lebanon Border" – via NYTimes.com.
  25. ^ Bassam, Laila; Perry, Tom (21 July 2017). "Hezbollah, Syria army launch offensive at Syrian-Lebanese border". Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  26. ^ "Hezbollah makes gains in Syria-Lebanon border assault". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  27. ^ "Syrian army captures new area in Qalamoun region – Xinhua – English.news.cn". news.xinhuanet.com.
  28. ^ "HTS to leave mountain region along Syria-Lebanon border as part of truce agreement". Syria Direct. 27 July 2017.
  29. ^ a b "Hezbollah and rebels agree ceasefire at Lebanese-Syrian border".
  30. ^ "Breaking: Lebanese Army kicks off Syrian border offensive". 6 August 2017.
  31. ^ "VIDEO: Lebanese Army prepares mechanized forces against ISIS". 16 August 2017.
  32. ^ "Lebanese army launches operation against Islamic State". Reuters. 19 August 2017.
  33. ^ "Hezbollah, Syrian Army liberate large chunk of ISIL-occupied Lebanese border region". AMN – Al-Masdar News | المصدر نيوز. 19 August 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  34. ^ "Lebanon army declares border ceasefire to negotiate deal with 'Islamic State'". Deutsche Welle. 27 August 2017.
  35. ^ a b "Isil fighters bussed from Lebanon-Syria border after first deal to surrender".
  36. ^ Amir Toumaj (30 August 2017). "US airstrike prevents Islamic State fighters from reaching eastern Syria". Long War Journal. Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  37. ^ "IS convoy stranded in Syria desert after US bombing". BBC.
  38. ^ "(IS) Group militants join the Syrian regime, the International Coalition confirms". El-Dorar Al-Shamia. 5 September 2017. Archived from the original on 9 September 2017. Retrieved 10 September 2017.