The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have begun deploying along a remote and sensitive stretch of Lebanon's eastern border with Syria, replacing members of the Iranian-backed Hizbullah organisation, LAF sources have told Jane's.
The LAF's 4th Land Border Regiment, one of four such units trained and equipped by the United States and United Kingdom, is plugging the 67 km gap from Masnaa on the Beirut-Damascus highway to the town of Arsal in northeast Lebanon, where there is a sizeable presence of Sunni extremists from the Islamic State and Tahrir al-Sham groups.
Hizbullah has been constructing positions along this stretch of border since late 2013 to protect Shia villages from attacks by Syria-based Sunni militants. Most of the positions are unmanned horseshoe-shaped hill-top berms, but the line south of Arsal and west of Tufayl village are manned and heavily fortified, some with artillery.
More than 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in more than a dozen suicide bombing attacks on Shia-populated areas in 2013 and 2014. The interception of vehicle bombs in the border area indicated that they were being constructed in Syria before being driven into Lebanon for the attacks.
Hizbullah's secretary-general Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah confirmed the withdrawal in a speech on 11 May, saying the group has "dismantled and will continue to dismantle the remaining military positions along the border between Lebanon and Syria … There is no need for us to remain deployed."
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