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A mine blast killed three Lebanese soldiers on Sunday as they were heading to take part in an offensive against ISIS along the border with Syria, the army said.
Lebanon’s army began its operation in the Ras Baalbek and Qaa region early on Saturday, and has already recaptured two thirds of the territory in the area, the military said.
The retaken area covers about 80 square kilometres once controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group, the army said.
But an army source warned on Sunday that ousting ISIS from the rest of the territory would be tough.
“The toughest battle will be to retake the remaining 40 percent because it is there that Daesh fighters are gathered. Nevertheless the army is ready,” said the source, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The soldiers killed on Sunday were on their way to join the offensive to oust ISIS, the military said in a statement.
“An army vehicle was hit by a landmine on the Al-Najsa road roundabout in Jurud Arsal at noon today, killing three soldiers and injuring one soldier seriously,” it read.
The statement said the wounded soldier was evacuated to hospital.
The battle against ISIS is being fought further north from Jurud Arsal, along the border with Syria.
The army also said soldiers blew up an explosives-packed car and a booby-trapped motorcycle carrying would-be suicide bombers in Ras Baalbek, preventing an attack on the troops.
On Sunday, Lebanon’s National News Agency reported soldiers used heavy artillery and rockets against ISIS positions in Jurud Ras Baalbek.
At least 20 ISIS fighters have been killed in clashes since the army unleashed its operation on Saturday, and 10 soldiers wounded, military spokesman Brigadier General Nazih Jreij said.
He said on the first day of the offensive that the army had captured around 30 square kms of territory.
The army says around 600 ISIS fighters were deployed in the Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud al-Qaa areas and controlled around 120 square kms of territory before the latest advances.
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