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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

IS group prepares to evacuate Syria-Lebanon border zone

Reuters , Monday 28 Aug 2017
Syria-Lebanon
Syrian forces members sit on a tank waiting for vehicles to transport Islamic State (IS) group members in the Qara area in Syria's Qalamoun region on August 28, 2017 as part of a deal between Hezbollah and IS fighters where the jihadists would leave to eastern Syria. Syria's state news agency SANA, quoting a military source, confirmed Hezbollah and IS had agreed that "the remaining Daesh (IS) fighters will leave to eastern Syria". And a Lebanese military source told AFP the jihadist group would quit territory it held in eastern Lebanon. (photo:AFP)
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The Syrian army and Hezbollah prepared on Monday to transport IS group fighters from their enclave on the border with Lebanon to eastern Syria after a week-long offensive against the militant group.

It will end any militant presence on the border, an important goal for Lebanon and the Shia Hezbollah group, and is the first time IS group has publicly agreed to evacuate territory under force.

IS group agreed a ceasefire on Sunday with the Lebanese army on one front and the Syrian army and Hezbollah on the other after losing much of its mountainous enclave straddling the border, paving the way for its evacuation.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese group, has been a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during Syria's six-year civil war. The Lebanese army said its offensive against IS group did not involve coordination with Hezbollah or the Syrian army.

The militants will move out of their positions to a point on the Syrian side of the border where they will board vehicles along with their families to transport them to Albukamal in east Syria, a Lebanese security source said.

Syria's state-run Ikhbariya news channel reported on Monday that the group was burning its machinery and headquarters.

A witness in Syria at the position where buses are gathering to receive the IS group fighters said black smoke was visible in the hills and that Syrian army and Hezbollah vehicles were present.

The deal involved IS group revealing the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers it captured when it overran the town of Arsal in Lebanon in 2014.

A senior Lebanese security official said late on Sunday the soldiers were almost certainly dead after recovering six bodies and digging for two others in areas previously held by IS group.

Earlier this month, two other pockets straddling the border were recaptured by Lebanon and Syria after other militant groups accepted similar evacuation deals.

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