Syrian rebels, refugees leave enclave in Lebanon

The departure of rebels from a group called Saraya Ahl al-Sham will leave an Islamic State enclave as the last militant stronghold straddling the border near the Lebanese town of Arsal, which is home to tens of thousands of refugees.

Ali Hashishov/Reuters
Bus drivers keep each other company in Jroud Arsal near the Syria-Lebanon border on Aug. 13, 2017.

A group of Syrian rebels and refugees began to leave a border enclave in Lebanon for Syrian territory on Monday under a deal worked out with Lebanese and Syrian authorities, a TV station affiliated to Hezbollah said.

The departure of rebels from a group called Saraya Ahl al-Sham will leave an Islamic State enclave as the last militant stronghold straddling the border near the Lebanese town of Arsal, which is home to tens of thousands of refugees.

About 300 rebels from the group as well as about 3,000 refugees are to leave Lebanon under the deal that followed an assault by the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah on insurgent positions last month.

A convoy of 40 buses had left for the Syrian border, al-Manar TV, which is linked to Hezbollah, said. Television footage showed buses very slowly moving through the dry hills of the border area.

The transfer involving Saraya Ahl al-Sham rebels and another one early this month of Nusra Front fighters and refugees are similar to deals struck within Syria in which Damascus has shuttled rebels and civilians to opposition areas.

On Friday, the Lebanese security official overseeing the arrangements, General Abbas Ibrahim, said a group of civilians would go to Assal al-Ward, an area just across the border from Arsal and held by the Syrian government.

The fighters and their families will go to another part of Syria which he did not identify. Al-Manar said last week they would go to the rebel-held town of al-Ruhaiba in the Eastern Qalamoun region.

Hezbollah is a Lebanese Shi'ite group that has played a big battlefield role in Syria's civil war on the side of President Bashar al-Assad.

Last month it defeated rebels in the insurgent enclaves near the border in Lebanon and forced the hardline Islamist Nusra Front group to leave. About 7,000 refugees departed with them for a rebel-held part of northwest Syria.

The Lebanese Army is expected soon to assault the Islamic State pocket in the same area. The United States helps arm the Lebanese army and on Monday delivered eight new armored vehicles, its embassy said.

Defeating the Islamic State pocket would end a period of several years in which armed groups from inside Syria held positions in the hills around Arsal, the most serious spillover of the civil war into Lebanon.

More than 1 million Syrian refugees are sheltering in Lebanon, about a quarter of its total population. Hezbollah has stepped up calls for the Lebanese government to engage directly with Damascus over the return of refugees to Syria.

Syria's opposition has criticized previous evacuations of civilians under ceasefire deals as amounting to the forced transfer of populations, something Damascus denies. 

The growing number of evacuation deals for fighters and civilians from besieged rebel areas inside Syria over the past year has helped Assad solidify his hold in several parts of the country.

This story was reported by Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Syrian rebels, refugees leave enclave in Lebanon
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2017/0814/Syrian-rebels-refugees-leave-enclave-in-Lebanon
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe