ISIS Convoy Reaches East Syria After Hezbollah Cease-Fire
Hundreds of so-called Islamic State fighters arrived in eastern Syria on Tuesday following their negotiated transfer from the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Associated Press reported.
The ISIS fighters were allowed to leave their enclave on the Lebanese-Syrian border for positions in eastern Syria as part of a deal negotiated by Hezbollah. The transfers ended any insurgent presence along the Lebanese-Syrian border and marked the first time that ISIS has negotiated a forced evacuation for its fighters.
The evacuations angered the Iraqi government, which accused Hezbollah and Syria of landing militants on its border with Syria rather than “eradicating” the jihadis.
“Honestly speaking, we are unhappy and consider it incorrect,” Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi told reporters on Tuesday. “Transferring terrorists from Qalamoun (along the Lebanese-Syrian border) to the Iraqi-Syrian border is worrying and an insult to the (Iraqi) people.”
Dozens Killed in Raqqa Clashes
Clashes between pro-government forces and ISIS in the eastern countryside of Raqqa have killed at least 64 fighters on both sides since Tuesday, AFP reported, citing a war monitor.
The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that 38 ISIS militants and 26 pro-government fighters were killed in fierce fighting on the southern banks of the Euphrates River over a 24-hour period. The monitoring group said more than 100 fighters have been killed over the past six days.
The Syrian army is pressing an advance through Raqqa’s eastern countryside toward neighboring Deir Ezzor, the last major ISIS stronghold in Syria. Last week, ISIS militants launched a counterattack in the area, setting pro-government forces back about 19 miles (30km) to the west of a strategic ISIS-held town located near the provincial border with Deir Ezzor. The attack killed 34 Syrian troops and allowed ISIS to recapture a number of villages and positions it had lost to the government last month.
U.S. Troops, Turkey-Backed Rebels Exchange Fire in Northern Syria
U.S. troops reportedly exchanged fire with Syrian rebels in northern Syria this month, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing the U.S.-led coalition.
“Our forces did receive fire and return fire and then moved to a secure location,” Colonel Ryan Dillon told Reuters by phone.
The coalition believes that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels are behind attacks on U.S. forces near Manbij. Coalition forces have told Ankara to tell its rebel allies that firing on U.S. coalition forces “is not acceptable,” Dillon said.
U.S. ground forces are stationed in northern Syria as part of the U.S. coalition supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces. U.S. troops have been performing patrols near Manbij since March in a bid to deter Turkish-backed rebels from attacking Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
“Our overt patrols that have been conducting patrols in that area to keep tensions down received fire multiple times over the course of the last two weeks,” Dillon said.
“We let our counterparts in Turkey know this and we continue to conduct these patrols but are always prepared and ready to defend ourselves in that area,” he added.
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