United States threatens ISIS convoy that agreed to leave Lebanon under Hezbollah deal

Posted August 31, 2017

The US-led coalition bombed the route of a convoy of Isis fighters travelling across Syria yesterday after a controversial deal that allowed them to escape a siege.

US airstrikes blocked the advance of an Islamic State convoy carrying militants toward Iraq on Wednesday, derailing a Hezbollah-negotiated deal that removed the extremists from the Lebanon-Syria border, where they have been for years.

"Buses transporting IS fighters have left the (Syrian) region of Qara, in western Qalamoun, and are heading for the town of Albu Kamal in Deir az-Zor" Hizballah and Syrian state television said early on Monday evening.

"To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge", US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition, told the Agence France-Presse.

Hariri's camp has been opposed to Hezbollah's intervention of Syria, where the militant group is fighting alongside government troops in the ongoing civil war.

Monday's transfers come one week after the Lebanese army and Hezbollah launched simultaneous but separate operations against ISIS positions in the border pocket from opposite sides.

On Tuesday, the ISIS fighters reached in Deir al-Zour province in eastern Syria, near the border with Iraq.

"In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the coalition will take action against ISIS whenever and wherever we are able to without harming civilians", the officials said.

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".

Lebanese President Michel Aoun declared victory against IS on Wednesday and praised the Lebanese army for carrying out the operation. 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.

The evacuation agreement, the first such publicized deal, had already angered many Iraqis, who accused Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah of dumping the militants on the Iraqi border rather than eradicating them.

Isis has lost swathes of territory since 2015 in both Syria and Iraq, including the Iraqi city of Mosul, which was eventually wrestled from the terrorists in July this year. "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.

"The negotiations have laid bare the close links between [Islamic State], the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and the Assad regime as well as the complicity of the three parties in the spread of terrorism in Syria and Lebanon", Syria's main opposition group said in a statement.

The commander of the army, General Joseph Aoun, on Wednesday declared "the end of the battle of Dawn of the Outsksirts, which achieved its goals by the expulsion of Daesh and knowing the fate of the abducted soldiers". "Their souls are my responsibility", he told reporters.