Lebanon declares pause in offensive against IS

Lebanon’s army on Sunday announced a pause in its offensive against IS group militants along the border with Syria in exchange for information on troops taken hostage in 2014. The armed forces launched their campaign against IS militants entrenched in the mountainous Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al Qaa areas on Lebanon’s eastern border on August 19. “The army command announces a ceasefire beginning at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) to make way for the last phase of negotiations linked to the fate of the kidnapped soldiers,” it said in a statement on Sunday. Nine troops are believed to still be held by IS after militants overran the Lebanese border town of Arsal in August 2014 and kidnapped 30 soldiers and police.
The army has said the missing troops were its “top concern” in its offensive against an estimated 600 IS fighters using the hilly border region as a base. IS has claimed several attacks in Lebanon in recent years, including twin bombings in a densely populated Beirut suburb that killed 44 people.
An army source said on Sunday that its command had agreed to IS’s request for a ceasefire in order to get more information on the missing soldiers.
The head of Lebanon’s General Security agency “Abbas Ibrahim has been authorised to negotiate with them for information on the kidnapped soldiers,” the source said. — Reuters