Sides exchange bodies after truce on Syria border
Beirut, Lebanon - Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and extremists on Sunday exchanged the bodies of fighters as part of a ceasefire deal for the restive Syria-Lebanon border.
The truce, announced by the Shiite movement and confirmed by Lebanon’s General Security agency on Thursday, ended six days of a Hezbollah-led assault on Al Qaeda’s former Syrian branch in the mountainous Jurud Arsal border region.
Hezbollah’s ‘War Media’ outlet reported that the ‘first phase of the deal’ took place on Sunday.
‘The bodies of nine Al Nusra fighters were exchanged for the remains of five Hezbollah fighters who died in the Jurud battles’, it said.
The second phase is due with the return to Syria of 9,000 extremists and their families who have been in eastern Lebanon since the beginning of the Syria war, Hezbollah said.
In exchange, an undetermined number of Hezbollah prisoners would be freed. The ‘War Media’ outlet said the bodies of the Syrian militants were handed over to the Lebanon’s General Security and their remains were to be transported to Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.
Al Nusra Front was Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria until mid-2016 when it broke off ties, before going on to found a new alliance called Hayat Tahrir alSham (HTS), which now controls large swathes of Idlib.
Hezbollah launched its offensive on Jurud Arsal - a barren border area used by militants as a hideout for several years - on July 21. Hezbollah had cornered rival fighters in a small pocket of territory when it announced the truce.
Head of Lebanon’s General Security agency Maj Gen Ibrahim Abbas confirmed the deal, saying it would also see the transfer of Syrian fighters and refugees to Idlib province.
Ambulances with the bodies of the Hezbollah fighters killed in week-long clashes, enter the village of Al-Labweh, after ceasefire on Sunday