Cease-fire deal reached on Lebanon-Syria border
BEIRUT – Agence France-PresseA cease-fire deal has been reached that will see jihadist fighters withdraw from the Syria-Lebanon border, a top Lebanese official said July 27 after a week-long operation there by the Hezbollah movement.
The powerful Shiite militant group began the assault on fighters from Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate, previously known as the Al-Nusra Front, in the Jurud Arsal border region last week.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on July 26 that his fighters had surrounding remaining militants in a small pocket of territory and negotiations were underway for their withdrawal.
On July 27 in the afternoon, the head of Lebanon’s General Security agency Major General Ibrahim Abbas confirmed the deal, under which the militants will withdraw to the Syrian province of Idlib.
“There is a ceasefire in place and the armed men and those civilians who wish to do so will go to Idlib in an organized fashion, under the supervision of the Lebanese state,” he told reporters.
He said Lebanon’s Red Cross would help organize the logistics of transporting the evacuees to Idlib and the deal would be implemented “within days.”
Other parts of the deal remained secret, but some Lebanese media outlets reported that Hezbollah fighters held by jihadists would be freed.
Earlier, Hezbollah’s “War Media” outlet and Lebanon’s official National News Agency both reported that a ceasefire went into effect in Jurud Arsal at 6:00 am.
Hezbollah says the militants it has been fighting in the border region are from the Al-Nusra Front, which last year rebranded itself the Fateh al-Sham Front after renouncing its status as Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate.
On Wednesday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters were on the cusp of “a great military victory,” and had surrounded remaining Al-Nusra fighters in a small pocket of territory.
He said “serious” negotiations were underway to secure the withdrawal of Al-Nusra militants.
“There are two paths: the battlefield and the negotiations. Both are open,” he said.
Security in Jurud Arsal has long been a source of concern.
The barren, mountainous border area has served as a hideout for militants, who in 2014 clashed with Lebanese security forces.