Syria’s Al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front threatened to execute the Lebanese soldiers it holds hostage in Qalamoon as strong confrontations continue between the Nusra and Hezbollah fighters.
“We will start by executing Lebanese captives in the event of the Lebanese army intervention in Qalamoon,” said Nusra Front sources to the Orient.net opposition news website.
In August 2014 Nusra Front fighters attacked Arsal, a district near the Lebanese-Syrian border, and captured Lebanese Hezbollah fighters and other policemen. The group later executed one of them.
The families of the hostages have demonstrated and protested in Lebanon to pressure the government to negotiate with the fighters and implement a deal.
Amid the continuous clashes between Hezbollah and the Nusra Front, the Nusra said on its Twitter account that its fighters made a “tactical withdrawal” from the Assal al Ward cliffs as Hezbollah fighters advance there from Lebanon.
Syrian opposition groups have claimed through social media that they killed five leaders of Hezbollah militias and Syrian regime forces in Qalamoon, Southern Syria.
The opposition's main factions such as Ahrar al Sham and the Nusra Front banded together on Tuesday in what they called the “Conquest of Qalamoon Army.” Since then, the regime has launched dozens of air strikes on Qalamoon and its outskirts, activists said.
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah made a television appearance on Tuesday in a speech broadcasted by Al Manar TV, in which he addressed the situation in Qalamoon saying "We haven't announced anything official... and even when we start, we will not issue a statement."
Meanwhile, a source close to the Nusra said "The battle in the region has begun" as the group attacked the strongholds of Hezbollah in Qalamoon on Monday.
The four-year long war in Syria had claimed the lives of more than 220,000 people, and at least 6.7 million are internally displaced while more than 4 million have fled the country, according to UN estimates.