Syrian army establishes full control over new areas in Western Qalamoun

Lebanese army artillery

Simultaneously, the Syrian army and its ally, the Lebanese Hezbollah group, are pushing to clear militants from the Syrian side of the border, in the western Qalamoun mountain range.

Lebanon's us -backed army on Saturday opened its biggest military operation yet against Islamic State militants who in 2014 gained a foothold along the tiny Mediterranean country's border with Syria.

The operation by Hezbollah and the Syrian army took the place in the western Qalamoun region of Syria.

Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab reports from Al Qaa, on the Lebanese-Syrian border.

Simultaneously, terror pockets diminished a large number of militants fled the stronghold as it went under attack. Hezbollah has been fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's forces since 2013.

The offensive is aimed at ridding the area of IS militants who are armed with anti-aircraft and armour-piercing missiles and drones, the Lebanese army said.

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Security along Lebanon's eastern border with Syria has always been a concern, and in 2014 jihadists invaded the town of Arsal and kidnapped 30 Lebanese soldiers and police.

The army has also made advances further east in recent days that could cut off more of the Daesh salient, according to the war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Lebanese army chief General Joseph Aoun announced the start of the operation, dubbed Jaroud Dawn, on Saturday.

Samir Geagea, a leading Lebanese Christian politician and longstanding opponent of Hezbollah and Syrian influence in Lebanon, said the visit to Syria would "shake Lebanon's political stability and put Lebanon in the Iranian camp". Gen. Ali Qanso said in a press conference at the Defence Ministry.

The army says there are about 600 militants in the mountainous region, which IS has held since 2014.

US President Donald Trump met with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last month when he promised more help in fighting terrorism, but in a speech he included Hezbollah in a list of terrorist organisations that are a "menace" to the Lebanese government, despite it being part of the governing coalition.

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