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Hezbollah leader defends evacuation of IS fighters

31 August 2017

It also marks the first time Islamic State has publicly agreed to a forced evacuation from territory it held in Syria.

A deal between Lebanon and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), brokered by the country's Shiite militant group Hezbollah, has provoked anger in Baghdad and among Iraqi Kurds after hundreds of jihadis were bussed to the Iraqi border.

The coalition "will not rule out strikes against IS fighters being moved", Dillon said, adding, "we are not party to any agreements that were made by the Lebanese Hezbollah and ISIS or the (Syrian) regime".

Earlier, the USA envoy to the coalition condemned the evacuation, which was negotiated by the Lebanese army, the Syrian army and its ally Hezbollah. 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.

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Nasrallah said ISIS had requested a ceasefire but that was refused, and ISIS subsequently agreed to the deal when they realized they would not be victorious.

Nasrallah claimed that Hezbollah fighters had "removed all the terrorists who were on the border and posed a threat to the whole of the Lebanon Valley".

Coalition airstrikes stopped hundreds of ISIS militants and civilians Wednesday from moving from one threatened ISIS enclave in Syria to another hundreds of miles east.

"The agreement to let the Islamic State militants escape likely saved hundreds of civilians held by the fanatical fighters, even though it allowed some Islamic State militants to escape", USA Today cited a senior U.S. defense official last August. US officials said Lebanon's military, which enjoys broad confidence from the public, was the only institution stable and credible enough to hold together the country's delicate political situation.

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Daesh terrorists are dressing up as Kurdish forces backed by the US-led coalition in order to capture civilians trying to flee Raqqa, The Telegraph reported Wednesday, citing local residents. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not part of the negotiations, did not have a number for militants leaving Lebanon.

Nine Lebanese soldiers were kidnapped by ISIL in 2014 when they briefly overran the border town of Arsal.

The coalition also said vows from the Syrian government and its allies to combat IS "ring hollow when they cut deals with and allow terrorists to transit territory under their control". Lebanese officials say they are nearly sure they are.

His army chief, Gen Joseph Aoun, meanwhile defended the evacuation deal, saying he had wanted to find the missing soldiers and not risk any more lives. "Either to go on with the battle and not know the fate of the soldiers, or give in and know the fate of the soldiers", he said.

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The Syrian government, backed by Russian air power and Iranian-organized militias including Hezbollah, has focused its military campaign in recent weeks on Deir el-Zour, where government troops have been besieged for years in the provincial capital.

Hezbollah leader defends evacuation of IS fighters