BAALBEK, Lebanon: Relative calm appears to have returned to the northeastern Lebanese-Syrian border Tuesday, following three days of battles between militants from Daesh (ISIS) and the Nusra Front. Sources told The Daily Star that the clashes peaked Monday evening with the killing of a prominent Daesh official. Part of the Al-Rahme family, the man was known by his nom de guerre Al-Aswad. A number of other militants were killed and wounded, including 18 from the Nusra Front and 23 from Daesh.
The exact tally of deceased and wounded remains unknown. “At the moment it is hard to tell ... some of the wounded are still lying in the field,” the source said. “Others have been transported to field hospitals or back to their bases.”
At the break of dawn Tuesday, calm returned to the area yet no clear victor emerged. “No one was able to hold their positions,” the source said. “One of the sides would capture a position only to be overrun by their enemies later on.”
Clashes began Sunday and centered on the Qalamoun region in Syria and throughout the outskirts of the Lebanese border village of Arsal. Jarajir, Ajram and Qornet al-Hashishat areas witnessed particularly intense clashes.
The Nusra Front attempted to secure the strategic Zamarani border crossing between Lebanon and Syria in a bid to recapture the location they had previously lost to Daesh. Lebanese national and Daesh member Majed Mohammad Abed al-Majed al-Hujeiri died in Sunday’s fighting.
The porous border has long facilitated the transfer of men and arms between the two countries. Reports also emerged claiming that Daesh had attempted to enter one of the numerous Syrian refugee camps surrounding Arsal, but were repelled. Daesh retaliated by executing a number of Nusra Front field commanders it had taken hostage.
Both groups have been engaged in sporadic, yet fierce, rounds of fighting since January. The Army has continuously fired artillery and rockets at positions of both militant groups. However, the area’s rugged mountainous terrain has prevented a full ground assault by the Lebanese Army.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 30, 2016, on page 2.