The Syrian Arab army backed by Hezbollah has made considerable inroads in the Qalamun area, inflicting heavy losses on the 10,000 jihadists that are stationed there.
Approximately half of them – affiliated, depending on the point of view, to the Al Nusra Front (i.e. Al-Qaeda) in Iraq, the Islamic State (former branch of Al-Qaeda behind the creation of a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria) or to the Free Syrian Army – retreated on August 2, 2014 into the Ersal region in Lebanon.
Ersal and the surrounding countryside are Sunni localities of 35 000 inhabitants that currently host 120,000 Syrian refugees. Even though the majority of the Lebanese living in Ersal is not involved in the fighting in Syria, about 700 of them “are mercenaries who have benefited financially and enriched themselves through the presence of refugees. They have no qualms; they are ruthless and lawless.” In fact, the town serves as a rear base for the jihadists operating in the Syrian region of Qalamun.
Being aware that an attack on Lebanese Shiite communities was in the offing, the Lebanese army proceeded to arrest the Syrian leader of Al-Nusra, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, who was in Lebanon visiting the wounded in Qalamun.
The Islamic State (Daesh) published photos of six Lebanese soldiers it allegedly took hostage.
Jihadists then attacked three positions of the Lebanese army, at Masyada, Wadi Hmayed and Tallet el-Hosn. The army managed to clear out of the first two, but the third fell to the attackers. Elite units and the eighth brigade were sent in to provide backup alongside the unit of helicopter forces operating on the ground.
16 Lebanese soldiers were killed, 13 others were reported missing and 25 more were injured.
At a press conference, the chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Jean Kahwagi, said: “The armed elements present in Lebanon are foreigners and fall within the various current forms of Takfirism. These elements belong to different nationalities and were outside our borders. They arrived in Lebanon after coordinating with individuals implanted within the refugee camps.”
Sunni scholars (Ulama) and MP’s of Northern Lebanon have accused Hezbollah of being responsible for the spillover of the Syrian war into Lebanon. In fact, those pointing the finger have themselves actively participated in the war against Syria from the beginning by transporting and distributing weapons sent by NATO and Israel. Hezbollah did not enter the conflict until one year ago when the jihadists began to threaten Lebanon.
Hezbollah has kept out of the operations conducted by the Lebanese army so as avoid a scenario similar to the controversial one the occurred in Abra in June 2013. At the time, the Lebanese army had given battle to the jihadist group (funded by Qatar) , with the discreet backing of Hezbollah.
The Lebanese army has warned against a possible expansion of the conflict to the entire territory.
Finally, in a video released Sunday by the Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda), a number of Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) can be heard announcing their “defection in protest against the army’s and Hezbollah’s actions in Ersal, and the actions of the Shiite party in Syria.” However, it is clear that such a declaration was made under pressure especially since they claim to have “deserted the army” whereas they are members of ISF.
 “Lebanese Special Forces neutralize Sheikh Ahmed al-Asir”,Voltaire Network, 24 June 2013.