Nusra and FSA join forces against IS in Qalamoun

Nusra and FSA join forces against IS in Qalamoun
3 min read
19 February, 2015
The region is likely to see further fighting as rebel groups take on the IS group. Meanwhile just over the border Lebanese forces are being reinforced, and Tripoli is on alert for possible IS group assassination squads.
The Lebanese army has recently received military equipment from the US [Husam Beydoun/Al-Araby]

Free Syrian Army factions and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front have reportedly joined forces to fight the Islamic State group in Syria's Qalamoun region.

The Lebanese border region has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Syrian army, its allied Lebanese Hizballah militia, and the FSA and Nusra Front.

The Lebanese army is also reported to reinforcing the other side of the border, after receiving munitions and heavy weapons including artillery from the US.

Militants from the IS group recently launched an assault in the region, striking a number of victories against the FSA, who were forced to either pledge allegiance to the extremist group or flee the region.

The FSA and Nusra have suffered serious setbacks in recent months. Lebanese security forces have arrested a number of FSA leaders, while Nusra lost some of its best fighters to the IS group.

Nusra has called up a large number of reserves in recent week to plug gaps in their lines, and launched attacks on Hizballah in Qalamoun. Nusra leaders still refuse to directly engage with the Lebanese army.

The alliance comes in the face of months of deteriorating relations between Nusra and the FSA.

     Nusra has called up a large number of reserves in recent week to plug gaps in their lines.

Both groups have swapped weapons, food and supplies, encouraging 150 FSA fighters to return to the front lines after retreating in the face of an IS group advance earlier this year.

Sources say that Nusra leaders told their FSA counterparts that there was no strings attached to its support, and that they are united in the battle against the IS group, the Syrian regime and Hizballah.

The Lebanese army has meanwhile reinforced its positions with new US military hardware. This includes 26 million shells and 70 M198 Howitzer cannons.

A batch of French weaponry is also scheduled to arrive next April, in order to beef up security on Lebanon's eastern borders and prepare for a new assault against the IS group.​

Meanwhile, security sources in Lebanon have revealed that the IS group has sent a number of fighters to the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli to kill leading Sunni religious and political figures.

One of Tripoli's leading Salafi sheikhs told al-Araby al-Jadeed he expects people such as himself to be targeted as they present one of the main obstacles to IS group expansion in Lebanon.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic website.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.