A convoy of Islamic State jihadists is continuing its trip across Syria after getting stuck in the country’s eastern region, and most have crossed over into areas controlled by the radical Muslim group near the Iraq border, despite U.S. threats to bomb the group.
The group of about 300 militants and their families left the Syria-Lebanon border earlier this week as part of a cease-fire deal struck between IS, Hezbollah and the Syrian government.
Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite group, now says it and the Syrian army have escorted the majority of the 17-bus convoy out of areas controlled by the Syrian government, fulfilling its part of the cease-fire deal.
In a statement Saturday, Hezbollah said a U.S.-led coalition had been using warplanes to prevent the convoy from moving east and to block anyone from the government side trying to bring aid to those on the buses.
It said six buses remain in an area controlled by the Syrian government and if those buses are hit, civilians will be killed.
On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement it would seek an unspecified solution that would save civilians in the convoy from further suffering.
The IS fighters were evacuated Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria under the cease-fire deal, 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.
Earlier this week, U.S.-led forces said they bombed a road in Syria to block the convoy from reaching its destination.
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 has said it is monitoring the convoy in real time, and it would not rule out direct strikes on IS jihadists.