Report: Arsal Battle Draws Closer after Failed Negotiations with Nusra

Mediated negotiations between al-Nusra Front group and Hizbullah, through Saraya Ahl al-Sham and other mediators, to evacuate Nusra militants from the outskirts of Arsal have reportedly failed, raising the prospects of a Hizbullah operation to oust them from the area, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported on Tuesday.

“Negotiations between al-Nusra and Hizbullah to evacuate militants from the outskirts were halted around three days ago. Its failure will likely give Hizbullah the green light to carry out a military operation, it gestured ten days ago, unless some new developments emerge,” security sources told the daily on condition anonymity.

According to information, the negotiations reached a dead end due to the “insistence of al-Nusra, represented by its commander in Qalamoun Abu Malek al-Talleh, to leave the outskirts with all its light and heavy weapons. Hizbullah insists that the militants should only take their light weapons and leave the heavy arms behind,” added the daily.

The negotiations resumed last week. In parallel, Syrian warplanes have been pounding positions of militants in al-Qalamoun and the remote outskirts in Arsal for more than 10 days.

Reports have said that Hizbullah has set the “zero hour” to kick start the battle in Arsal. Meanwhile Syrian air raids bombed Lebanese outskirts at dawn on Monday. The impact of raids were felt by residents in Arsal, according to the daily.

The sources also said that “negotiations included a clause on money.”

Unnamed sources from the Bekaa region who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the daily that “al-Talleh has also demanded to leave to Turkey,” and that he adhered to this condition since the beginning of the negotiations.

Al-Hayat also said that “unconfirmed media reports said that al-Taleh has sent letters to displaced Syrians in encampments near Arsal urging them to move to al-Qalamoun and assuring that his battle is with Hizbullah and not with the Lebanese army.”

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