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Pache, a Stew of Sheep and Cow Innards, may not Look Appetizing, but the People of Mosul Adore it

Pache, a Stew of Sheep and Cow Innards, may not Look Appetizing, but the People of Mosul Adore it

Pache, a veritable witch’s brew of sheep and cow offal, has Muslawis crowding the city’s restaurants

The annals of food preparation have no lack of the gruesome. Still, it’s hard to envision a more macabre process than the one that yields pache (pronounced PAH-tshe), the piece de resistance of Mosul’s unique cuisine.

The Iraqi city, where the government recently declared victory over Islamic Statemilitants, is famous all over Iraq for its pancake-like version of kibbeh (a patty of bulgur and spiced meat with raisins) and dolma (an especially fatty take on the stuffed-grape-leaves dish). But it’s the city’s version of pache, a veritable witch’s brew of sheep and cow offal, that has Muslawis crowding the city’s restaurants, even as the thumps and crashes of battle can be heard nearby.

It all begins many hours before eating, when Mohammad Tareq Azzawi, 48, unloads animal heads, feet, intestines and other parts in the yard of his house in east Mosul.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.


Lebanon's Hezbollah group insists: We're not the 'menace' Trump says we are

REPORTING FROM ARSAL, LEBANON — Hajj Abu Ahmad, a grizzled senior commander with Hezbollah, flashed his laser pointer authoritatively on a large map as he described the intensity of the battle the militant group had waged to neutralize Al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian fighters bunkered in this mountainous area along the border between Lebanon and Syria.

"You had to fight rock to rock, hill to hill, quarry to quarry," said Abu Ahmad, who used a nom de guerre, in line with Hezbollah's policy.

His presentation, after an edited video of the group's warriors in battle ("CDs of the video will be distributed," promised a spokesman), was another salvo in a media offensive to show that the Lebanese group is not the regional "menace" President Trump called it last week, and that it occupies a pivotal role in the fight against Al Qaeda and Islamic State extremists.

That message was on full display Saturday, when the group corralled about 50 SUVs full of Western and local journalists to survey its victory here, among its famously media-shy commanders and fighters.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party, is also Lebanon's strongest armed faction. Deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., the group, empowered by its patron, Iran, has an outsized presence in the region.

Israel considers the group its most cunning foe. Hezbollah operatives, such as Imad Mughniyah (who was assassinated in 2008), sound like the stuff of spy movies. Along with Iran and Russia, Hezbollah has been instrumental in preventing the fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad at the hands of the rebel factions arrayed against him, some backed by the United States.

Since late last week, Hezbollah-aligned TV and social media channels have delivered intimate accounts of the battle to wrest control of Arsal and its environs from the Organization for the Liberation of Syria, which was formerly associated with Al Qaeda and known as Al Nusra Front. The operation had been conducted in cooperation with the Lebanese and Syrian armies, who secured the perimeter on both sides of the border and prevented the jihadis from escaping.

By Thursday, the Islamist militants were cornered in a nearly 2-square-mile area and conceded defeat. A cease-fire was declared, along with an agreement to transfer an estimated 9,000 insurgents and their families from the area to rebel-held regions in Syria. (Its second phase began Monday, Hezbollah-affiliated media said.)

The tour for journalists became an occasion to survey an area inaccessible since 2014, when the militants had overrun Lebanese army positions here and taken a few dozen troops hostage. Nine remain missing and are thought to be in the hands of Islamic State, which still has a presence in other parts nearby.

The convoy, shepherded by camouflage-painted Polaris and Yamaha ATVs zooming back and forth on the harsh terrain, followed a path hewn through the Anti-Lebanon mountains to within four miles of the Syrian border. The area, long an important smuggling route between Lebanon and Syria, is famous for the apricot and cherry trees that line the uphill asphalt road. It soon gives way to a forbidding dirt track that weaves past the quarries that extract Arsal's other important export, stone.

Those quarries, as well as the canyons crisscrossing the region, had been repurposed into makeshift bunkers by the militants, who had fortified their positions using tools commandeered from local stone workers. The defenses had rendered heavy weapons mostly ineffective, said Abu Ahmad in his military briefing, forcing Hezbollah to flush out the jihadis in brutal close-quarters combat.

"To be fair to [Al Nusra Front insurgents], they had good defensive planning," he said, adding that Hezbollah had confirmed the death of 47 militants.

Hezbollah fighters had also been killed, although Abu Ahmad declined to say how many.

His presentation was held in an underground cavern first dug out during Lebanon's civil war by Palestinian guerrillas. Years later, the anti-Assad militants had made it a rear-guard rebel base, shuttling men and materiel between Lebanon and Syria.

On one side stood what appeared to be a library, complete with religious books and CDs. One disc was labeled as a sermon titled, "What goes on underground." Unassembled mortar shells were scattered nearby, while another room held ragged military vests and long boxes containing what appeared to be rocket launchers, as well as abandoned records of the weapons assigned to each insurgent.

Another stop at a hilltop military outpost (after a navigational bungle nearly caused one car to veer into Syria) allowed journalists to clamber over weathered-looking jeeps equipped with cannons. A commander exhorted fighters to lower their gaze to avoid the multitude of cameras.