Photo: AFP/Hezbollah Press Office
Photo: AFP/Hezbollah Press Office
Hezbollah fighters have captured two hilltops from al Qaeda's Syria wing Nusra Front in areas close to the Lebanese border and have killed dozens of enemy combatants, Hezbollah-run al-Manar television reported on Monday.
It said in a newsflash that the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim group had captured the hilltops of Quba'a and Naqar in Syria's southwestern Quinetra province, which lies in sensitive territory close to Lebanon and Israel.
Iranian-backed Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his country's civil war. The group's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has vowed to clear the border area of Sunni Muslim militant groups that have carried out attacks on Lebanese soil.
Nasrallah said on Sunday that Hezbollah was willing to increase its presence in Syria when needed and that the fight was part of a wider strategy to prevent groups like Nusra Front, and the ultra-hardline Islamic State, from taking over the region.
He added that an offensive his group is leading in the mountainous region of Qalamoun along the border between Syria and Lebanon would last "until the borders are secured".
'Principled' supportMeanwhile, the United States and Turkey have agreed "in principle" to give air support to some forces from Syria's mainstream opposition, Turkey's foreign minister said, in what if confirmed could mark an expansion of US involvement in the conflict.
There was no immediate comment from US officials on the assertion - though Washington has so far refrained from committing to enforcing a "safe zone" for Syrian rebels, as it could be seen as a declaration of war on the Syrian state.
The air support would protect Syrian rebel forces that have been trained by a US-led program on Turkish territory, said minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The long-delayed scheme is meant to send 15,000 troops back to Syria to fight Islamic State militants.
Cavusoglu did not go into details on what "in principle" meant or what kind of air power would be provided or by whom.
"They have to be supported via air. If you do not protect them or provide air support, what is the point?" Cavusoglu told the pro-government Daily Sabah during a visit to Seoul.
"There is a principle agreement on providing air support. How it is going to be provided is in the responsibility of the army."
Targeting ISISSyria's own air force carried out at least 15 strikes in and around the central city of Palmyra early on Monday, targeting buildings captured by Islamic State, a group monitoring the war said.
Fighters from the militant group overran the ancient city, the site of some of the world's best preserved Roman ruins, last week. They have killed at least 217 people execution-style in the area since May 16 including children, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
This was in addition to at least 300 soldiers killed by Islamic State in fighting leading up to the city's capture, according to the Observatory's toll.
It said the hardline group had detained around 600 soldiers, pro-government fighters and those accused of being loyalists in and around the city, also a key military gain as it stands on a crossroads to the cities of Damascus and Homs.
The air force carried out raids on targets including the military intelligence building and the city hospital, said Observatory founder Rami Abdulrahman, who gathers information from a network of sources on the ground.
Islamic State supporters have posted videos online which they say show fighters going from room to room in government buildings in Palmyra, also known as Tadmur, searching for troops and pulling down pictures of President Bashar al-Assad and his father.