BEIRUT: Hundreds of militants from Saraya Ahl al-Sham, a Free Syrian Army-affiliated group, and their families are scheduled to leave Lebanon Saturday as part of a deal that earlier led to the withdrawal of Al-Qaida fighters from an area straddling the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Around 350 FSA-affiliated militants along with their families will move to the Syrian city of Al-Ruhaibeh in eastern Qalamoun, a week after the evacuation of thousands of Syrians including Al-Qaida fighters from the outskirts of the Lebanese northeastern border town of Arsal into Idlib in Syria.
The latest wave of evacuations will pave the way for an army offensive against Islamic State militants in a nearby area spanning the frontier towns of Ras Baalbek and Arsal.
The army is expected to launch the offensive if negotiations over the withdrawal of IS militants to territories under their control in Syria fails, a security source told Annahar.
The success of the negotiations hinges on whether IS militants reveal the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were abducted in 2014 when IS and al-Qaida-linked militants briefly occupied Arsal. The militants were defeated shortly after and forced to withdraw to Arsal’s outskirts.
In July, the Al Qaida-affiliated Fatah al-Sham Front agreed to vacate the region, following a two-weeks-long military operation spearheaded by Hezbollah on the Lebanese side and the Syrian army on the other.
Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah have blamed a string of terror blasts in the country dating back to 2013 on extremist groups entrenched within the region straddling the northeastern Lebanese-Syrian border.
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