U.S. dis­rupts evac­u­a­tion of IS mil­i­tants in Syria

Truro Daily News - - CLASSIFIEDS/WORLD -

The U.S.-led coali­tion said Wed­nes­day it car­ried out airstrikes to dis­rupt a con­voy of Is­lamic State mil­i­tants be­ing evac­u­ated from the Le­banon-Syria bor­der to an IS-held area in east­ern Syria near Iraq, with­out tar­get­ing the evac­uees them­selves.

Coali­tion air­craft struck a small bridge and cratered a road to hin­der the con­voy’s progress. The coali­tion also struck a sep­a­rate group of IS mil­i­tants trav­el­ling to meet the con­voy, ac­cord­ing to Col. Ryan Dil­lon, a coali­tion spokesman.

U.S. of­fi­cials have crit­i­cized the trans­fer of hun­dreds of mil­i­tants and civil­ians who are bound for an IS-held area near the Iraqi bor­der, say­ing the ex­trem­ists should be killed on the bat­tle­field. The evac­u­a­tion came as part of a con­tro­ver­sial deal bro­kered by the Le­banese Hezbol­lah group to clear IS from an area along the Le­banon-Syria bor­der.

The coali­tion is re­luc­tant to strike the ac­tual con­voy of evac­uees be­cause the fight­ers have wives and chil­dren trav­el­ling with them, said a U.S. of­fi­cial, who wasn’t au­tho­rized to dis­cuss mil­i­tary de­tails and re­quested anonymity. Al­though Hezbol­lah mem­bers are be­lieved to be the ones es­cort­ing the con­voy, the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment’s in­volve­ment cre­ates fur­ther risk for the U.S. if the coali­tion were to hit it.

The coali­tion nev­er­the­less said in a state­ment that it is not bound by the evac­u­a­tion agree­ment. There are about 300 mil­i­tants and al­most as many fam­ily mem­bers on buses be­ing evac­u­ated un­der the deal.

“We are mon­i­tor­ing their lo­ca­tion in real time,” Dil­lon said, adding that the coali­tion “will not rule out strikes against IS fight­ers be­ing moved.”

He added that any strike will be in ac­cor­dance with “the law of armed con­flict and if we are able to do so and can dis­crim­i­nate and dis­cern the dif­fer­ence be­tween fight­ers and civil­ians.”

Syr­ian op­po­si­tion ac­tivists said the con­voy, which left the Le­banon-Syria bor­der on Tues­day, is still in gov­ern­ment-held ter­ri­tory in east­ern Syria.

The evac­u­a­tion agree­ment, the first such pub­li­cized deal, had al­ready an­gered many Iraqis, who ac­cused Syria and Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah of dump­ing the mil­i­tants on the Iraqi bor­der rather than erad­i­cat­ing them.

The top U.S. en­voy for the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion against IS, Brett McGurk, tweeted Wed­nes­day that IS “ter­ror­ists should be killed on the bat­tle­field, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi bor­der with­out #Iraq’s con­sent.” McGurk added that the anti-IS coali­tion will help en­sure that “these ter­ror­ists can never” en­ter Iraq.

Le­banese troops launched an at­tack against IS on Aug. 18, while Syr­ian troops and Hezbol­lah fight­ers launched a si­mul­ta­ne­ous of­fen­sive from the Syr­ian side of the bor­der. The mil­i­tants agreed to a cease-fire over the week­end once they had been squeezed into a small area along the fron­tier.

Le­banon has de­fended the agree­ment, in which the mil­i­tants are said to have re­vealed the lo­ca­tion of the re­mains of nine Le­banese sol­diers who were cap­tured in 2014.

The re­mains of sev­eral peo­ple have been un­cov­ered in the bor­der area, and DNA tests are un­der­way to de­ter­mine whether they be­long to the miss­ing sol­diers.

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