Lebanese army raises Spanish flag on recaptured IS position
The picture - posted on the website of the Lebanese Armed Forces on Saturday - has gone viral on link-sharing site Reddit.
"A salute from our troops fighting ISIS in the jurds (barrens) of Ras Baalbek to the victims of Spain and the whole world Mkhayrme Mountain - jurds of Ras Baalbek #Dawn-of-the-jurds," read the caption in English with a Spanish translation.
Dubbed operation Dawn of the Jurds (Barrens), Lebanon’s US-backed army on Saturday launched its biggest military operation yet against IS militants, who gained a foothold along the border with neighbouring Syria in 2014.
The long-awaited campaign aims to defeat the militants in their last enclave in Lebanon and put an end to a terror threat that has loomed over the country for years.
Fourteen people died and dozens were hurt when a van hit crowds on Las Ramblas, Barcelona on Thursday. The terror attack was claimed by IS.
Spanish authorities narrowed in on suspects accused of radicalising a group of young men in north-eastern Spain.
|The Lebanese Hizballah group and the Syrian army announced a simultaneous offensive to clear IS militants from the Syrian side of the border|
The army made rapid advances on Saturday, capturing key IS positions, and battles resumed on Sunday.
The Lebanese Hizballah group and the Syrian army announced a simultaneous offensive to clear IS militants from the Syrian side of the border, in the western Qalamoun mountain range. Hizballah has been fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces in Syria since 2013.
Operations commenced before dawn, with the military striking IS positions in the eastern border areas with Syria, Brig. Gen. Ali Qanso said in a press conference at the Defence Ministry. He warned of a difficult battle ahead. The barren hills in eastern Lebanon will leave infantry exposed to IS snipers, and the militants are expected to mine the area on a vast scale.
A group of IS militants - including a self-styled "emir" or local commander - surrendered to the advancing Hizballah and Syrian regime forces by midday, according to Hizballah's Central Military Media outlet, which is run jointly with the Syrian military.
Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government.
Qanso said Saturday the army was not even coordinating with Hizballah. That would spare Washington the potential embarrassment of appearing to be allied with a group it classifies as a terror organization.
Earlier this month, a US defence department spokesman revealed the presence of American special forces in Lebanon, providing training and logistical support for the army ahead of the anti-IS offensive.
Spain is one of the largest troops contributors to UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon, with 615 Spaniards serving under the blue flag. A total of 13 Spanish soldiers have been killed serving with UNIFIL since 2006.