The Lebanese Army and its Syrian and Hezbollah allies separately declared a cease-fire with the Islamic State after a weeklong joint campaign against the militant group along the border with Syria in northern Lebanon, the Hezbollah-controlled TV channel Al Manar said on Sunday.
There were conflicting accounts, however, about the outcome of the border fighting. The Lebanese Army, which announced the cease-fire in a statement, said the truce had been intended to allow negotiations for the recovery of its missing soldiers. It did not claim to have defeated the Islamic State.
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.
In a speech on Thursday, the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that ISIS had been defeated, but that the authorities were still negotiating to find out the fate of the missing soldiers.
“The remaining ISIS terrorists are completely confused and seek an escape or any settlement to exit the area which they have occupied after being besieged,” he said in a statement reported by the Syrian Arab News Agency.
A week ago, the Lebanese Army, operating on its side of the frontier, along with the Syrian Army and allied Hezbollah militias fighting on Syrian territory, began a simultaneous offensive against the Islamic State in the border area, although neither side acknowledged that it was acting in concert.
Lebanon would not want to appear to be operating alongside the Syrian government, and the presence of Hezbollah militias from Lebanon fighting in Syria is also politically sensitive.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Rod Nordland