8,000 to leave Syria-Lebanon border zone as ceasefire deal advances

Reuters , Sunday 30 Jul 2017

Hezbollah
members of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement riding in vehicles as they are greeted by locals on their way back from clashes in the Jurud Arsal border region as part of a ceasefire deal. Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and jihadist militants began implementing a ceasefire deal for the restive Syria-Lebanon border, with an exchange of bodies of fighters killed in week-long clashes. (AFP)

About 8,000 people have registered to leave the Lebanese border region near Arsal for a rebel-held area of Syria as part of a local ceasefire between Hezbollah and the Nusra Front, a security source in Lebanon said on Sunday.

The local ceasefire came into effect on Thursday and will involve the departure of all Nusra militants from the area around Arsal along with any of the civilians living in the area's refugee camps who wish to leave with them.

The first step in the ceasefire took place on Sunday as the two sides started to exchange the bodies of fighters killed in clashes between them. Five Hezbollah prisoners held by Nusra will be released as part of the agreement.

Nusra and the Islamic State group have been present in the mountains near Arsal in northern Lebanon for years, the most serious spill-over of Syria's civil war into its neighbour.

Shia Hezbollah retook most of the area held by Nusra during an offensive last week that killed nearly 150 of the Sunni militants and about two dozen Hezbollah fighters.

Hezbollah, which has had an important role in the Syrian civil war supporting President Bashar al-Assad, is expected to launch an offensive against a smaller Islamic State enclave near Arsal.

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