Militants, Civilians Left Arsal to Idlib while Hundreds Stepping Back

9000 Syrians, including jihadists, cross from Lebanon to Syria in ceasefire deal

Al-Nusra Front is the name of the Syrian faction that was previously an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

We review the key developments in Syria, including militant evacuations from the Lebanese border, USA warnings over al-Qaida's ascendancy in Idlib and reports that journalists in Raqqa have been wounded by a vehicle bombing.

Two former residents of Arsal said most refugees originally fled to Arsal when the Syrian army backed by Hezbollah took control of their towns across the border during heavy fighting over three years ago.

Some 7,000 Syrians including 1,000 militants, their families and refugees are to leave the Lebanese town of Arsal and the surrounding border area and head for Syria's northwestern Idlib province under the deal, Hezbollah-run media outlets said. Such evacuations have helped Assad to recapture several rebel bastions over the past year.

The deal is thought to be similar to deals concluded inside Syria, under which the Syrian government transferred opponents and civilians to Idlib and other areas under opposition control.

The withdrawal followed Hezbollah's recent gains in fighting against Syrian militants in Aarsal, a major arms and gunmen smuggling hub.

The transfer was agreed under a ceasefire deal between Hezbollah and Nusra last week but delayed by two days while negotiations over the captive exchange took place, according to Reuters.

Hezbollah fighters have now moved into the areas after terrorists of Nusra Front, now known as Fateh al-Sham Front, withdrew following a series of consecutive defeats, which forced them to agree to a ceasefire.

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The UN refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement on Wednesday it was not involved in the deal or the return of fighters and their families.

Eight of its fighters were being held by Nusra in Arsal, of whom three were freed on Wednesday and more on Thursday.

Last week, Hezbollah captured most of the mountainous zone of Jroud Arsal from the Syrian fighters. It now leads the Sham Liberation Organisation in the Syrian war.

He added that the battle, which started on July 21, took an important turn in favor of Hezbollah and the Syrian army, when both forces captured the Kirra hilltop in Fleita, which exposes the Nusra positions on the Syrian-Lebanese border region.

Hizbullah has argued that efforts to topple the Syrian government destabilise Lebanon and has fought on Damascus's side since 2012.

A Syrian soldier takes position in the Syrian barren region of Fleita in western Syria near Lebanon as preparations were underway to transfer al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front militants on August 2, 2017.

The convoy arrived at Saan in Hama province on Thursday, where they began to cross frontlines from government territory, a Hezbollah military media unit reported.

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