Iraq News

Outrage spreads as Hizbullah attempts to bus ISIS fighters to eastern Syria



An 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' element looks out of the window of a bus in Syria's Qalamoun region on Monday (August 28th) as ISIS elements and their families are transported to Deir Ezzor as part of a Hizbullah-brokered deal to end their presence in Lebanon. On Wednesday, their route was blocked by a coalition airstrike. [Louai Beshara/AFP]

The international coalition battling the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has carried out an airstrike to block fighters evacuated from Lebanon from reaching eastern Syria, a coalition spokesman said Wednesday (August 30th).

Hundreds of ISIS fighters were evacuated Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria under a ceasefire deal brokered by Lebanon’s Hizbullah, and were headed to an ISIS-held town near Syria's eastern frontier with Iraq.

The evacuation deal sparked widespread outrage, especially in Iraq, where on Tuesday Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi said the deal was "unacceptable" and an "insult to the Iraqi people".

He said Iraq was fighting ISIS, not sending its fighters to Syria.

"Irreconcilable ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across Syria to the Iraqi border without Iraq's consent," US presidential envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk said in a social media post.

"Our coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling 'caliphate'," he added.

Coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon on Wednesday confirmed that a coalition bombing raid had blocked the convoy's route.

"To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge," Dillon said, without providing further details on their location.

"ISIS is a global threat," he said. "Relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution."

'Unjust' evacuation deal

The evacuation deal was negotiated between ISIS and Lebanon’s Hizbullah, which has intervened in the war in neighbouring Syria to prop up the Syrian regime.

Hizbullah had been fighting a week-long offensive against ISIS on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, coinciding with a simultaneous assault by Lebanese troops on their side of the frontier.

The battles ended Sunday with the announcement of a deal that would see ISIS forces bussed hundreds of kilometres from Syria's western border with Lebanon to its eastern frontier with Iraq.

ISIS fighters and civilians, including children, left the border region two days ago, but on Wednesday their buses were still held up at the entrance to Deir Ezzor province.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed there had been a delay but did not specify why, and Syrian regime sources reached by AFP declined to comment.

Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashimi called the evacuation deal "unjust", noting that it is "throwing ISIS from Lebanon into Iraq".

Journalist Salma al-Khafaji said the evacuation could allow a "restructuring and reorganisation of ISIS, throwing them into a new battle against Iraq".

On Monday, an ISIS-claimed bombing in the Iraqi capital killed 11 people.

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Please pay attention to the words of Nasrullah. Don't write with bias.