Lebanon army declares pause in offensive against ISIL

Posted August 28, 2017

The military announced a cease-fire Sunday and a halt in its offensive against Daesh along its northeastern border with Syria, paving the ground for negotiations to decide the fate of Lebanese soldiers held hostage by the terror group.

Hezbollah, however, said that fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, had surrendered, had turned over the bodies of two Hezbollah combatants and had agreed to help determine what had happened to a number of missing Lebanese army troops.

The army has said the missing troops were its "top concern" in its offensive against an estimated 600 ISIL fighters in the hilly border region.

Talks have begun with mediation by the head of Lebanon's internal security agency, a security source said.

Lebanon declares truce to pave way for release of ISIL-held troops as Syrian army and Hezbollah halt separate campaign.

"We believe that these remains belong to the soldiers".

Ibrahim also added that locating the bodies was part of a deal reached with the Islamic State group during a military offensive in the area that began last week.

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Hezbollah has played a major role in fighting Sunni militants along the border during Syria's six-year war and has sent thousands of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Northeast Lebanon saw one of the worst spillovers of Syria's war into Lebanon in 2014, when ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, and other armed groups briefly overran the border town of Arsal.

"When this happens, Daesh's military presence in Lebanon - its control of geographic territory - will be finished", the source said.

Some reports suggested that the IS militants had already killed the Lebanese soldiers, as reports said Hezbollah was told by IS about their destiny, but the Shiite group will leave the declaration about the fate of the soldiers to the Lebanese army.

Hezbollah managed to inflict huge losses on terrorists linked to al-Nusra Front. The province is southeast of Raqqa, where the U.S-backed Syrian opposition forces are battling ISIS militants.

A Western diplomat praised the Lebanese army's performance in the border battle in "a risky and complex operation" that the diplomat said would have been "simply unimaginable" a decade ago, reported Reuters on Sunday.