Lebanon: Army raids Arsal refugee camps, one killed

Five suicide bombers blow themselves up during army raids on two Syrian refugee near Syria border.

Lebanon General Joseph Aoun army commander
Lebanon's military has stepped up its crackdown on ISIL in the area close to the Syrian border [Reuters]

A young girl was killed and seven Lebanese soldiers were wounded on Friday when army raids on two refugee camps near the village of Arsal at the Lebanese-Syrian border were attacked by a group of suicide bombers.

“Five suicide bombings and a grenade attack targeted the Lebanese Army early Friday in the northeastern border town of Arsal, leaving seven soldiers wounded,” the army said in a statement. 

Four of the suicide bombers struck in the al-Nour camp near the border town of Arsal, the army said.

A young girl, whose parents are both refugees, was killed and three soldiers wounded, the army said.

A medical source in the provincial capital Baalbek told AFP news agency the girl was two and a half years old.

Troops recovered four explosive devices during the raid.

“The army immediately detonated these devices in the places they were planted,” the statement said. 

Another attacker blew himself up in the nearby camp of al-Qariyeh, and a second attacker threw a grenade at troops, wounding four of them.

The army said its units were continuing with the raids, which are aimed at “arresting terrorists and seizing weapons”.

Witnesses reported hearing intermittent bursts of gunfire in the area.

The wounded soldiers were airlifted to hospital by a Lebanese army helicopter, Tayyar media reported.

There have been multiple clashes along the border between the Lebanese army and hardline fighters connected to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) or Al-Qaeda.

READ MORE: A voice of horror from Lebanon’s Arsal

In August 2014, the army clashed with ISIL and al-Qaeda’s then Syria affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra in the Arsal area, with hardline fighters kidnapping 30 Lebanese soldiers and policemen as they withdrew back along the border.

After long and arduous negotiations, 16 of the kidnapped men were released in December 2015 in exchange for Islamist prisoners held in Lebanese jail.

The hardline fighters executed four of their hostages while a fifth died of wounds he suffered in the initial Arsal clashes, leaving nine members of Lebanon’s security forces still in their hands.

About 1,500 fighters are still believed to be operating near the flashpoint town of Arsal, which was overrun by ISIL in 2014.

Across the border, advances by the Syrian army, backed by the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, last year cut off the rebels from the east, leaving them surrounded in an area straddling the border.

About 70,000 Syrian refugees live in camps in and around Arsal, some of the more than one million Syrians who have fled to Lebanon to escape a bloody civil war on the other side of the border. 

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies