Cease-Fire Announced Along Lebanese-Syrian Border
Fighting on the Syrian-Lebanese frontier halted on Thursday after a cease-fire agreement between Hezbollah and an al-Qaida-linked militant group was reached, Al Jazeera reported.
Citing Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency (NNA) and Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV, Al Jazeera said that the truce in the rugged mountainous outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal was brokered by Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s general security agency.
Although the terms of the agreement remain vague, NNA claims that the deal grants remaining fighters from al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate – the Nusra Front – safe passage from the Syrian border to rebel-held Idlib province, which has become the only refuge for more than 900,000 Syrians displaced from other parts of the country.
The truce does not cover fighters from the so-called Islamic State, who also hold territory along the Lebanese-Syrian frontier and who are expected to be the next target of Hezbollah’s operations along the border.
Thursday’s developments come roughly one week after Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched a joint operation targeting some 3,000 militants entrenched in a mountainous section of the Lebanese-Syrian frontier. According to Al Jazeera, at least two dozen Hezbollah fighters and some 150 militants have been killed in clashes so far.
SDF in Control of Half of Raqqa
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are in control of nearly half of the former so-called Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Nisreen Abdullah of the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ – one of the main components of the SDF – told the Associated Press the Kurdish-led force has captured 45 percent of Raqqa since an offensive against the former militant bastion began on June 6.
She said that the SDF has captured a number of neighborhoods in the city so far but their push into the center has slowed down because of land mines and explosives laid by militants.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that the SDF is now in control of 50 percent of the embattled northern city. According to the monitoring group, the Kurdish-led force is now advancing against ISIS militants in southern Raqqa, near the northern banks of the Euphrates River, under the cover of coalition warplanes.
Turkey Border Crossing Reopens
A key border crossing along the Turkish-Syrian frontier has been reopened after it came under the control of an al-Qaida-linked militant group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Wednesday.
Vehicles and trucks carrying food supplies used the Bab al-Hawa crossing Wednesday, according to the monitoring group, which said that the area is now open to travelers and merchants. The observatory also posted photos online purporting to show trucks using the border crossing, though it does not specify whether they were crossing from Turkey into Syria or the other way around.
Earlier Sunday, Ahrar al-Sham’s hard-line militant fighters withdrew from the Bab al-Hawa crossing following three days of heavy fighting against Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an alliance led by al-Qaida’s former Syria affiliate.
Following Ahrar al-Sham’s withdrawal, the border crossing reportedly came under the control of a “civilian administration” forced in by HTS.
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