BEIRUT – Hezbollah fighters captured a Syrian village near the border with Lebanon on Tuesday after intense fighting with Islamic militants, the group's television station said, while an activist said battles are concentrating near a strategic Syrian hill.
Tuesday's fighting in Syria's Qalamoun region came hours after members of al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, posted a video showing seven Lebanese troops held hostage by the militants since last year.
The battles also come amid reports in Lebanon that Hezbollah and the Syrian army are expected to launch an offensive against members of the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group in Qalamoun.
Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station said members of the group captured the village of Hasina on the Syrian side of the border. The station said fighting in the border areas near the Lebanese villages of Brital and Tufeil killed 12 jihadi fighters and destroyed several of their vehicles.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Hezbollah fighters entered Hasina after Nusra Front members withdrew. Abdurrahman said the fighting is concentrating near the jihadi-held Moussa Hill, a strategic mountain overlooking wide areas of Qalamoun.
Meanwhile, the video released by Nusra showed the seven men who are among some 20 Lebanese soldiers and police officers who have been held captive by the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group since August.
The seven men who appeared in the 14-minute video posted online are being held by the Nusra Front. In the video, the men are seen sitting on a blanket in front of a black flag of the al-Qaida affiliate.
They accuse the Lebanese government of not doing enough to secure their release. They also spoke out against Hezbollah, calling on the Lebanese army not to take part in battles on the Syrian side of the border. It was not clear if they were speaking under duress.