BEIRUT: The largest batch of Syrian refugees departed Lebanon on Monday from the mountainous region of Arsal, Baalbek, making their way back home after years of exile as a result of the bloody neighboring civil war.
888 refugees elected to return to the Qalamoun region, northeast of Damascus through the Zamarani crossing, under the watchful eye of the Lebanese army and international aid organizations.
Members of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were also present to ensure that those who departed did so with their own accord, in line with previous agreements.
The UNHCR had previously opposed the return of refugees, arguing that it was not deemed safe for them to return yet, which triggered a long-lasting feud with Lebanese officials, including caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
A number of refugees are expected to follow suit after three other expeditions were carried out successfully in recent months.
"I am looking forward to reuniting with my wife and kids," one refugee told Annahar, before expressing his "gratitude to the Lebanese government for their hospitality."
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had vowed to facilitate the return of refugees given his party’s close relationship with the Syrian government, by forming committees to draft lists of individuals seeking to return presented to Syrian authorities in coordination with Lebanon's General Security
The committee has opened a number of contact centers where refugees received the information needed in order to begin the process of returning to their homeland.
It also dispatched task forces to visit the different refugee camps and hold talks with refugees to “explain to them in detail the procedure” as well as “alleviate their concerns and provide incentives for their return,” former Hezbollah MP former MP Nawar Al-Sahli.
Government forces in Syria have been making immense gains in recent weeks with Iranian and Russian support, finally hoisting their flag above the southern town of Daraa.
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