US-led strike in Syria blocks IS fighters evacuated from Lebanon

Beirut (AFP) – The US-led coalition carried out an air strike on Wednesday to block Islamic State group fighters evacuated from Lebanon from reaching eastern Syria, its spokesman told AFP.

Hundreds of IS fighters and civilians were evacuated Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria under a ceasefire deal and were headed to an IS-held town near Syria’s eastern frontier with Iraq.

“To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge,” said coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.

The coalition later specified that it “struck individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as IS” on a road leading east to the Syrian town of Albukamal on the border with Iraq.

“IS is a global threat; relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution,” Dillon said.

The evacuation deal was negotiated between IS and powerful Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has intervened in the war in neighbouring Syria to prop up the Damascus government.

Hezbollah had fought a week-long offensive against IS on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, coinciding with a simultaneous assault by Lebanese troops on their side of the frontier.

The battles ended Sunday with the announcement of a deal that would see IS forces bussed hundreds of kilometres (miles) from Syria’s western border with Lebanon to its eastern frontier with Iraq.

Jihadists and civilians, including children, left the border region two days ago, but on Wednesday their buses were still held up at the entrance to Deir Ezzor province.

“We know and understand that there are civilians” aboard the buses, Dillon said.

“If we are able to strike them without harming civilians, then we will do so,” he said, adding that the coalition was monitoring the convoy’s movement in real time.

Asked whether the presence of civilians had prompted the coalition to bomb the road instead of the convoy itself, Dillon said that would…

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