Middle East

Syrian fighters, refugees leave Jroud Arsal camps

Fighters, families and refugees head to Idlib in bus convoy following deal between Hezbollah and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.

Buses carrying Syrians have begun leaving refugee camps in the Lebanese border area of Jroud Arsal under a truce deal between Lebanon's Hezbollah and Syrian Jabhat Fateh al-Sham fighters.

Thousands of Syrians, including fighters, their families and refugees, are to leave the border zone and head for Syria's Idlib province under the agreement.

The Lebanese Al Manar television station said on Wednesday that 26 buses crossed further northeast from the Arsal area to Wadi Hmeid, in the direction of the Syrian border.

Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from Labweh, said the logistics of the long convoy would be challenging.

"The Lebanese Red Cross will escort this convoy to the border with Syria," he said.

"They will then be met by the Syrian Red Crescent, which will escort the convoy to Idlib province, a rebel-held area.

 

"That is where these refugees, these fighters and their families will be going, but we understand this could take many many hours."

Nearly 7,000 Syrians are expected to leave the area under the ceasefire deal, according to Hezbollah-run news media outlets.

The deal also included the release of Hezbollah fighters by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, which took place overnight.

The ceasefire took effect last week, just days after Hezbollah and the Syrian army launched an offensive to drive Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and other armed groups from their last foothold along the Syria-Lebanon border.

Figures disputed

Security sources say that about 1,000 Jabhat Fateh al-Sham fighters are among those who will leave the area for Idlib aboard dozens of buses.

However, in an interview to Al Jadeed, a Lebanon-based TV station seen as close to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Lebanese General Security official estimated the number of fighters to be much lower.

"What we know is 120 fighters," Major-General Abbas Ibrahim said.

 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies