Led strikes in Syria block IS militants evacuated from Lebanon

Kristopher Drake
August 31, 2017

The coalition is reluctant to strike the actual convoy of evacuees because the fighters have wives and children traveling with them, said a USA official, who wasn't authorized to discuss military details and requested anonymity.

IS militants and their families who had been inside an IS enclave on the Lebanon-Syria border reached an exchange point in eastern Syria on Tuesday from where they will head to IS-held territory, a Hezbollah military media unit said.

The ceasefire took effect on Sunday and saw a convoy of 308 militants with small arms and 331 civilians leave the border area under Syrian army escort.

"In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the coalition cratered the road heading east between Hamaymah and Abu Kamal to prevent the further transport of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners and struck individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS".

The ceasefire halted separate, dual assaults against ISIS waged by the Lebanese army on its side of the border and Hezbollah from the Syrian side.

On August 28th hundreds of ISIS fighters were allowed to board buses in the Qalamoun mountains on the border of Lebanon and Syria and drive to eastern Syria near Deir ez-Zor.

The Islamic State fighters were believed to be accompanied by family members in 17 buses and 11 ambulances, and at least 25 of them were wounded, according to statements by Hezbollah officials in Lebanon.

General Joseph Aoun, the commander of the Lebanese army, gave a speech following the president's and said the decision to negotiate with ISIL was made to preserve the lives of Lebanese civilians and soldiers. "But we do not expect it to last long, and according to our plans the battle will not take longer than two months from now", Ahmed said.

Save the Children on August 28 also said a bombing campaign has increased the "nightmares" for young people in the self-declared IS capital, which is under siege by USA -backed Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters.

Lebanon has defended its stance of not totally crushing IS saying that the evacuation of IS militants from the area helped in revealing the fate of nine soldiers that the extremists kidnapped in 2014.

The US has provided $1.5 billion in security assistance for Lebanon since 2006 to fight ISIS and provide a counterweight to Hezbollah. "We wish they were celebrating with us".

Hezbollah is a significant player in Lebanon with government ministers and lawmakers, while the role of its fighters also has been growing in Syria. "Their souls are my responsibility", Gen Aoun told reporters.

In parts of Syria that have been freed from IS control, there is a growing influence by Hezbollah, and that has raised concerns about a stronger Iranian hand in Syria and the potential for Hezbollah to use the territory as a base to attack Israel.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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