Syrians evacuate Lebanese border camps

Syrian refugees Lebanon border

More than a hundred buses carrying thousands of Syrian militants and their families left Lebanon Wednesday, completing a cease-fire deal between the Syrians and the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah.

The evacuation came as part of a deal struck between the militants and Nusra, following a wide-scale offensive Hezbollah and the Syrian army unleashed two weeks ago in the border region of Syria's western Qalamoun, and the Lebanese Juroud Arsal.

Thousands of Syrian refugees and militants evacuated from northeastern Lebanon arrived on Thursday in central Syria in territory held by rebel and jihadist fighters, a monitoring said.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media released video and photos of the buses and ambulances preparing for the evacuations near the Lebanese border town of Arsal and the Syrian village of Fleeta.

The operation has highlighted the major role of Hezbollah in fighting militants along the frontier during Syria's six-year war, part of the much bigger role it has played across Syria in support of Assad.

The deal includes the departure of all Nusra Front militants from Lebanon's border region around the town of Arsal, along with any civilians in nearby refugee camps who wish to go. Amid the fierce conflict, Hezbollah backed Bashar al Assad led Syrian regime like Iran ever since the armed revolt in the country began in 2011.

Hezbollah fighters have now moved into the areas after terrorists of Nusra Front, now known as Fateh al-Sham Front, withdrew following a series of consecutive defeats, which forced them to agree to a ceasefire.

At least three of the Hezbollah fighters were released overnight.

The first of five Hezbollah captives due to be released in the deal crossed into government territory at the same place, the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar television reported.

While the Lebanese Red Cross has taken part in logistics of the transfer, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has not been involved. "UNHCR is not in a position to ascertain to what extent refugees, who are civilians by definition, are returning in this movement", UNHCR said.

It seized most of the region of Arsal last week in a joint attack with the Syrian army to drive Syrian opposition fighters out of their last foothold in the border region.

Michael Ratney, the top State Department official in charge of Syria policy, said in an online letter that the latest offensive by the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham alliance (HTS) had put "the future of northern Syria in big danger".

A picture taken on July 29, 2017 during a tour led by Hezbollah shows members of the media gathering in a mountainous area around Arsal along the border with Syria.

Syrian men carry their bags near a bus in Jroud Arsal, Lebanon August 2, 2017.

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