Convoy of Isis fighters and families blocked by airstrikes in Syria
The 600 terrorists and civilians had been granted safe passage after surrendering enclave on Syria’s border with Lebanon
A convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families begin to depart from the Lebanon-Syria border zone in Qalamoun. Photograph: Omar Sanadiki/Reuters
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Reuters in Beirut
Saturday 2 September 2017 00.00 BST Last modified on Saturday 2 September 2017 00.12 BST
A convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families being evacuated into jihadist territory in east Syria remained in government-held areas of Syria on Friday, US-led forces have said.
“It has not managed to link up with any other Isis elements in eastern Syria,” said Col Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting Isis.
There are about 300 fighters and about 300 civilians in the convoy, which the Syrian army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group granted safe passage after the Islamist terrorists surrendered their enclave on Syria’s border with Lebanon.
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But the coalition against Isis has used airstrikes to block the convoy from crossing into the group’s main territory straddling Syria’s eastern border with Iraq.
The Isis fighters in the border pocket accepted a truce and evacuation deal after simultaneous but separate offensives by the Lebanese army on one front and the Syrian army and Hezbollah on the other.
It angered the coalition, which does not want the fighters bussed to a battlefront in which it is active. It also angered Iraq, which is fighting Islamic State across the border.
“We are continuing to monitor that convoy and will continue to disrupt its movement east to link up with any other Isis element and we will continue to strike any other Isis elements that try to move towards it,” Dillon said.
The coalition has asked Russia to tell the Syrian government that it will not allow the convoy to move farther east to the Iraqi border, the coalition said in a statement.
The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, gave prayers on Friday for Islam’s Eid al-Adha festival in the town of Qara, near the enclave surrendered on Monday by the Islamic State fighters.
Confined to Damascus for long periods in the early part of Syria’s six-year civil war, Assad has grown more confident in travelling around government-held areas as the army and its allies have won a series of victories.
Assad was shown on state television standing and kneeling on a green carpet in a packed mosque alongside Syrian religious leaders as he followed the imam giving prayers.
The departure of Islamic State and other groups from the western Qalamoun district means the border with Lebanon is Syria’s first to be controlled entirely by its army since early in the conflict.
Qara is only a few miles from the mountains delineating the frontier with Lebanon, in which Islamic State and other militant groups held territory until August.
Part of an agreed exchange under the truce went ahead on Thursday as wounded Islamic State fighters were swapped for the bodies of pro-government forces. But the fate of the main part of the convoy is uncertain.
“It was moving this morning and then they had stopped ... I don’t know if they stopped for a break or were trying to figure out what to do,” Dillon said.
The frontline between Syrian government forces and Islamic State in eastern Syria is active as the army, aided by Russian jets and Iran-backed Shia militias, presses an offensive to relieve its besieged enclave at Deir ez-Zor.
On Friday a Syrian military source said the army and its allies had made an advance against Islamic State in that area and had also taken several villages in a jihadist enclave in central Syria
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/ ... g-in-syria
ISIS convoy stuck in Syria after US airstrikes block it
Published September 01, 2017 Fox News
Lucas Tomlinson reports from the Pentagon
A convoy of ISIS militants found itself with nowhere to go after getting stuck Thursday in Syria following U.S.–led airstrikes that blocked it in.
More than 300 militants and their families were in the convoy of buses after vacating the Lebanon-Syria border as part of a Hezbollah-negotiated deal to transport them to an ISIS-held town in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.
The deal has angered Iraq and the U.S., which launched airstrikes Wednesday to block the convoy’s advance.
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“They’re on the move. They’re trying a different route; we’re watching all the way through,” Col. Ryan Dillon, the American coalition spokesman, told The New York Times. "If ISIS wants to continue to send known ISIS fighters and vehicles toward this convoy, we will continue to fight them."
After being stuck for hours at an exchange point, the buses moved further north to a government-controlled area while negotiations continued in search of a new way to reach an ISIS-held area further east.
Earlier in the day, ISIS handed over to Hezbollah the body of a recently captured Iranian Revolutionary Guard member as part of the deal.
A convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families begins to depart from the Lebanon-Syria border zone in Qalamoun, Syria August 28, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki - RC1390BECA60Expand / Collapse
The convoy moved north to start negotiations so it can move further east. (Reuters)
The Lebanese Hezbollah group, which negotiated the controversial agreement, said it had received the body of Mohsen Hojaji and would conduct DNA tests before sending his remains onward to Iran. The handover was reported by the Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV.
The militants revealed the locations of the remains of Lebanese soldiers captured in 2014 in exchange for safe passage through Syrian government-held territory into ISIS-held area near the Iraqi border.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Thursday he met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in person and asked for his help in securing the deal that would help clear the Lebanon-Syria border area.
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"I went to President Assad...I went to Damascus," he said, adding that he sought to convince Assad to let the convoy pass through government territory.
"He [Assad] told me, this is embarrassing for us, but no problem," Nasrallah told supporters gathered in eastern Lebanon for a "victory rally" to celebrate the expulsion of ISIS from the border area.
"The Syrian government has put up with the embarrassment for the sake of Lebanon," he said.
U.S. airstrikes on Wednesday destroyed a small bridge and cratered a road, forcing the convoy to halt. The U.S. has not targeted the evacuees themselves, but has struck other groups of ISIS militants in eastern Syria. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said some ambulances that were part of the ISIS convoy were able to cross into ISIS-held territories in Syria.
He said the group was looking for ways the convoy could cross into ISIS-held areas without being struck by the U.S-led coalition.
Dillon said the coalition continued to monitor the buses.
"The buses have not made it to ISIS-held territory and we will stick with what we said yesterday, and that is we can strike ISIS elements without harming civilians whenever and wherever we will," Dillon said.
Also Thursday, Syrian troops and allied forces captured a strategic mountain overlooking the Deir el-Zour province, which was mostly under ISIS control, according to Iranian state television.
Russia, which is providing air support to Assad's forces, said capturing the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province is the current military priority.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/09/01 ... ck-it.html