Published: Tue, August 29, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Militants allowed to leave Lebanon-Syria border area

Militants allowed to leave Lebanon-Syria border area

Any coordination between the Lebanese army and either the Syrian army or Hezbollah would be politically sensitive in Lebanon and could jeopardise the sizeable USA military aid the country receives.

Isis agreed to a ceasefire on Sunday after fighting the Lebanese army on one front and Hezbollah and the Syrian army on another, losing much of the territory in the mountainous enclave it holds on the border.

A line of ambulances and buses were shown on Syrian state television driving slowly through the arid countryside, the border's pale hills behind them, as they departed.

The victory has been bittersweet, however, as an army statement confirmed that eight bodies found near the town of Arsal had been identified as the missing servicemen.

The transfer comes almost a week after Lebanon launched a military campaign to drive Islamic State from the rugged mountainous area along its border with Syria.

On Sunday, the Lebanese army, on one side, and Hezbollah and the Syrian army on another, declared separate but simultaneous cease-fires.

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The militants will travel across Syria under heavy security escort to Islamic State lines near Al-Bukamal in the east, a Lebanese security source said. Soldiers, tanks and armored vehicles were heavily deployed along the border area, and caves used by Islamic State bore signs of damage from the recent fighting.

Part of the evacuation deal was supposed to ensure the safe return of nine Lebanese soldiers kidnapped when Isis overran the area in 2014.

Two Hezbollah offensives against other Sunni militant groups in Syria's north earlier this year proved successful.

Almost two dozen buses and 11 ambulances carried the militants and their families from the area straddling the Syria-Lebanon border toward the Islamic State-held town of Boukamal in eastern Syria.

Inside Syria, Islamic State is retreating on all fronts, losing territory both to the Syrian army and its allies, and to an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias backed by a US -led coalition.

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