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Lebanese Army captures hundreds of suspected ISIL fighters in Bekaa Valley refugee camp

Lebanese Army captures hundreds of suspected ISIL fighters in Bekaa Valley refugee camp | 01/10/14

Maha Hamdan

Originally published at WorldTribune.com

by Maha Hamdan Intelligence Analyst at TheIntelligenceCommunity.com & Political Consultant For Lebanon, ANDERSON Consulting, Canada

The Lebanese Army has battled Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in what resulted in scores of casualties and injuries in the Bekaa Valley.

Lebanese troops near the Syrian border on Aug. 28 / AFP

Lebanese troops near the Syrian border on Aug. 28 2014. Image courtesy of: AFP

Officials said at least 40 Islamic fighters and Lebanese soldiers were killed in an army raid of a Syrian refugee camp on Sept. 29. They said the army also captured hundreds of suspected supporters of ISIL and Nusra Front for the Defense of Levant near the border town of Arsal.

“The number of [Syrian] refugees arrested before today was around 200 or 250,” Arsal Deputy Mayor Ahmed Fleeti said.

The ISIL-Nusra presence in the Bekaa Valley was said to have been led by Hatem Al Hassan, a Palestinian. Al Hassan’s deputy was identified as Ahmed Al Rifai, a Syrian in charge of strongholds in the Syrian villages of Asal Al Ward and Serghaya.

Officials said those arrested included Lebanese and Syrians as well as four confirmed operatives of Nusra. They said Arsal contains at least 40,000 Syrian refugees.

“The Lebanese Army is determined to protect the security of our people in Arsal,” Lebanese Chief of Staff Gen. Jean Qawhaji said. “There is no siege on the town of Arsal or its people.”

The fighting around Arsal could spread throughout Lebanon. Officials said ISIL and Nusra could recruit tens of thousands of the 1.2 million Syrian refugees, about 100,000 of whom served in the military.

“If weapons reached those men that means they will become more powerful than the Lebanese Army,” Lebanese Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said.

On Sept. 29, Derbas urged the government to relocate Syrian refugees to the eastern border. Currently, the refugees were spread throughout 1,400 locations.

“The alternative to organized [camps] would be chaos.” Derbas said.

[Editor’s note: This article has been republished with the kind permission of the authour, Maha Hamdan.]