Cartography: Orient-Le Jour

The Jurd of Ersal is a mountainous zone, about 150 km2, situated between Lebanon and Syria. Its highest point exceeds 3000 m. In the winter, it is covered by several metres of snow and this is why it is uninhabited.

Since 2011, about 3,000 jihadists and their families have taken refugee there. But today there would be no more than 1,000, spread between two groups: al-Qaeda and Daesh.

For several months, negotiations have been underway between the jihadists and the Syrian Arab Republic. The latter had asked the jihadists to liberate the territory and to make their way, with their war booty, to Idleb (in the North-West of Syria which is under the de facto administration of Nato). The jihadists for their part were demanding to withdraw to Lebanon.

At the end, on 20 July 2017, the Syrian Arab Army and the Hezbollah have launched an assault while the Lebanese Army has blocked all possible retreat. Following President Trump’s speech at Riyadh, for the first time, these three formations are officially coordinated.

This battle which promises to be long, does not bear the same print of the others. In fact, in contrast to other Syrian regions, here there are no inhabitants, not even transient nomads. It is therefore impossible for the jihadists to infiltrate them with kamikazes. However the jihadists have been heavily armed by Germany, the United States and France. It is of particular note that they have Milan launch missiles and TOW.

The Lebanese President, General Michel Aoun (patriot), personally supervises the action of his army. The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri (pro-Saudi), although criticizing the Hezbollah’s participation (pro Iranian) in the operation, has authorized his troops to be prepared for anything. The Syrian refugees that camp at the foot of the mountain in Ersal, and who until now were reputed to actively support the jihadists, have been authorized to move to the city to be placed under the protection of the Lebanese Army.

Saad Hariri and his minister of Foreign Affairs, Gibran Bassil (son-in-law of President Aoun) have made a trip to the United States and should be received at the White House.

The UN and some NGOs which now are the only entities to openly support the jihadists, are getting ready to receive the injured and have now opened two hospitals in the country. However no movement between the Jurd and Ersal has yet been detected.

During the first two days of fighting, the forces of the Republic and the Resistance have made a spectacular advance in territory controlled by the jihadists of Al Qaeda. But the battle cry is that this will be a long one.

Anoosha Boralessa