Hezbollah issues ultimatum to Sunni jihadists in Arsal battle

Hezbollah sniper team in western Qalamoun, Syria near Jurud Arsal

As Hezbollah continues to advance in the Jurud Arsal area of Lebanon, it has issued an ultimatum to the Sunni jihadists who remain. Hezbollah’s enemies are part of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (“Assembly for the Liberation of the Levant,” or HTS), which includes the al Qaeda branch formerly known as Jabhat al Nusrah.

Hezbollah’s command in the Arsal area released a statement Monday afternoon directed to the Sunni militants:

“The battle with Jabhat al Nusrah is on the verge of its end, it [referring to Hezbollah’s command] calls on armed groups remaining in Jurud Arsal to spare their blood by throwing down their weapons and surrendering themselves with guarantees for their safety.” Otherwise, the statement implied, militants will face continued advances by the Shiite jihadist group.

In addition, Hezbollah claimed to capture┬áseveral more areas of the Jurud Arsal region. According to Lebanese publication The Daily Star, this means that the Shiite group has captured over 80% of the Sunni militant-held area. However, this figure – which closely matches previous numbers released by Hezbollah – does not include areas of Jurud Arsal held by fighters loyal to the Islamic State. That area has yet to be breached by either Hezbollah or its Syrian military allies.

Meanwhile, HTS released its own infographic depicting the battles raging in western Qalamoun, Syria, as part of the Hezbollah-led operation. HTS claims to have killed more than 200 fighters and wounded 250 others from the Syrian military or Hezbollah. It also claims to have captured one Syrian army soldier, as well as three tanks, two bulldozers and three military vehicles were reported destroyed.

The Sunni jihadists also claimed to have recaptured several points in western Qalamoun. Prior to the infographic, HTS released a video of three Hezbollah fighters captured in 2016. The prisoners urged the end to the Hezbollah offensive in return for their safety.

HTS infographic:

Hezbollah prisoners of HTS:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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