Lebanese police find 30 burnt bodies in Arsal refugee camp

Photo: Lebanese police find 30 burnt bodies in Arsal refugee camp
 / Arab World

At least 30 charred bodies were discovered at a Syrian refugee site near the northeastern border town of Arsal after a lull in fighting between the Lebanese Army and jihadists allowed police to inspect the site, a security source said Thursday.

The source said police counted at least 30 bodies at the refugee camp dubbed "Bdadine-4" near Wadi Hmeid, on Arsal's outskirts, The Daily Star reported.

They were apparently killed by shell fire during the fighting that pitted Lebanese troops against jihadists from the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

Meanwhile, ISIS militants withdrew from Arsal following a 90-minute battle with the Lebanese Army that ended shortly after midnight.

Security sources said groups loyal to Imad Jomaa, the Syrian national whose arrest by the Lebanese Army over the weekend triggered the battle in Arsal, pulled out toward the barren terrain following clashes with Lebanese troops around Wadi Sweid and Wadi Hosn, the farthest east points in Arsal, close to the border with Syria.

The radical groups - Nusra Front and ISIS - were split over attempts to end the fighting, which broke out Saturday following Jomaa's arrest. Nusra Front left Arsal late Tuesday, while ISIS had insisted on staying to continue fighting the Army.

The conflict between the militant factions is a new development that threw a wrench into cease-fire negotiations, since jihadist factions in the area had generally cooperated in recent weeks as they sought to fight what they saw as a common enemy in the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah. The two were reportedly planning a coordinated offensive against militants based in the hills surrounding Arsal.

It also came as former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced a $1 billion pledge from Saudi Arabia to improve the capabilities of the Lebanese military in the battle against terrorism.

At least 17 soldiers, 50 militants and 12 civilians have been killed in the Arsal clashes, according to a security source.

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