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Hezbollah Leader Says He Met Assad in Syria Over IS Evacuation

  • VOA News

FILE - Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters during a religious procession to mark Ashura in Beirut's suburbs, Nov. 14, 2013.

The leader of Hezbollah says he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to discuss a deal that saw hundreds of Islamic State jihadists evacuated from the Syria-Lebanon border earlier this week.

During a Thursday speech, Hassan Nasrallah said he asked Assad to negotiate the deal, which led to the evacuation of the IS fighters in exchange for information on the remains of nine Lebanese soldiers captured in 2014.

"I went personally to President Assad and asked for his help to remove Daesh from" the area, he said. Daesh is another word used to refer to Islamic State.

Under the cease-fire deal, more than 600 Islamic State group fighters and their families were evacuated Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria, destined for an area near the Iraqi border.

The group was taken to the Syrian city of Homs for transport in buses to Deir al-Zour province in eastern Syria, where IS still holds territory.

On Wednesday, U.S.-led forces said they bombed a road in Syria to block the convoy from reaching its destination.

A coalition statement said the airstrike blocked the IS convoy's route by cratering a road and destroying a small bridge between the towns of Hamaymah and Abul Kamal.

'Insult to the Iraqi people'

"ISIS is a global threat; relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution," the statement said, using an alternate acronym for IS.

The transfer of IS fighters, along with their relatives to a city in Deir al-Zour, near the Iraq-Syria border, was met with anger from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He called the move "unacceptable" and an "insult to the Iraqi people."

He feared the jihadists would bring their fight to its borders.

The coalition said it is monitoring the convoy in real time and it would not rule out direct strikes on IS jihadists.

The statement added it is "not party to any agreements that were made by the Lebanese Hezbollah and ISIS or the [Syrian] regime," noting that any strikes carried out against the IS convoy would be in accordance with "the law of armed conflict."

The coalition said it "struck individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS," but that it has yet to target the convoy of buses.

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