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Hezbollah, Assad forces offensive in Arsal puts Syrian refugees at risk

Syrian refugees in Jurud Arsal

An offensive launched by Lebanese Shi'ite militia Hezbollah along with Bashar al-Assad forces allegedly to oust ISIS terror group from Juroud Arsal town on Lebanon-Syria borders enters its second day.

According to Hezbollah-affiliated military media unit, the Shiite militants have captured a strategic hilltop area called Dhahr al-Huwa. 

The hilltop was previously an important base for al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front terror group.
Earlier, Iran-backed Hezbollah seized Jwar al Sheikh, Wadi Kriti and other areas in the southern part of Juroud Arsal, the military unit added. 

Syrian refugees at risk

Syrian journalist Abu al-Huda al-Homsi said "All the areas of Qalamoun, including the refugee camps, have been shelled". 

International human rights groups have warned of violations against the Syrian refugees in the area.

Lynn Maalouf, Middle-East Director of Research for Amnesty International said, “It is of utmost importance for the Lebanese army and other sides involved in the fighting in Arsal to prioritize the protection of Lebanese residents as well as Syrian refugees in the area. They must refrain from using lethal force except when it is unavoidable for self-defense or defense of others against threats of death and serious injury. Thousands of lives are on the line".

“Syrian refugees in Arsal are living in extremely harsh conditions in packed tented settlements. The operations must be carried out in a manner that protects the right to life and other human rights. Use of explosive weapons in these circumstances would be contrary to Lebanon’s obligations under international law and likely to lead to arbitrary deaths," he added.

He further called for authorities to safely evacuate residents from Arsal and allow unimpeded access for aid organizations and emergency medical services into the town.

 Those who have been detained  in the operations must be treated in accordance with international human rights law and standards, he added. 

Secret deal 

According to observers, a secret deal has been struck between ISIS terror group and Hezbollah and the Assad forces.

Under the deal, ISIS terrorists will withdraw from Arsal and Qalamoun outposts in return for releasing Lebanese army prisoners.

In return, ISIS will get sites in Palmyra. Also, The terror group will be supplied with fuel and receive logistical and financial support.

Syrian journalist Ghassan Ibrahim says Hezbollah commander Hassan Nasrallah, who kept talking about the liberation of Jerusalem, now sends his militias to Arsal and not to Jerusalem". 

Mosul fall scenario 

Lebanese media sources likened withdrawal of ISIS from Arsal and Qalamoun to the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Mosul in June 2014. 

Footage on Hezbollah's Al Manar TV channel showed Hezbollah terrorists on a hilltop firing assault rifles and wire-guided missiles at militant positions. The media unit also reported that some Nusra terrorists had raised white flags in surrender.