U.S. Warplanes Block ISIS Transfer Deal
U.S. coalition airstrikes on Wednesday blocked a convoy of so-called Islamic State fighters from reaching a militant-held enclave in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq, Reuters reported.
Coalition airstrikes cratered a road and destroyed a small bridge east of Humeima in southeast Syria to prevent the convoy of militants from moving farther east toward ISIS-held territory in Deir Ezzor, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon told Reuters on Wednesday. Warplanes also targeted an ISIS vehicle heading to the convoy from the militant-held town of Boukamal.
Coalition warplanes did not immediately target the convoys because of the hundreds of civilians also aboard the buses. Citing Hezbollah figures, Reuters said that 308 militants and 331 civilians were now stranded and unable to move into ISIS territory.
The strikes were aimed at stopping an evacuation deal that grants ISIS fighters safe passage from their enclave on the Lebanon-Syria border to areas they hold in eastern Syria. The controversial deal, brokered by Hezbollah and the Syrian army over the weekend, has drawn criticism from the U.S. and the Iraqi governments.
U.S. officials have said that the extremists should be killed on the battlefield and not transferred to friendly territory in eastern Syria, according to the Associated Press (AP). The Iraqi government on Tuesday accused Hezbollah and Syria of landing militants on its border with Syria rather than “eradicating” the jihadis.
Hezbollah defended the deal on Wednesday, saying that it was the only way for Lebanon to determine the fate of nine Lebanese troops who were captured by ISIS in 2014, the AP reported.
Syrian Army Captures Border Positions on Jordanian Frontier
The Syrian army and allied fighters captured border posts from Syrian rebel groups in the country’s southern frontier with Jordan on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported.
The monitoring group said that fierce clashes have broken out between pro-government forces and Syrian rebel groups in desert regions near the Jordanian border as the Syrian government moves to drive rebels from a stretch of territory along the frontier.
According to SOHR, pro-government forces captured at least “five border posts” and other positions from Syrian rebel groups operating in the area.
Wednesday’s advance is part of an invigorated government push along its southern frontiers with Israel and Jordan. Earlier this month, Syrian troops and allied fighters captured at least 19 miles (30km) of Syria’s frontier with Jordan from rebels and seized control of all checkpoints and border posts it had lost earlier in the conflict.
Rebel groups, some backed by Western and Arab states, are still in control of most of Syria’s southwestern frontier with Jordan and Israel.
Russia Responds to Israeli Concerns Over Syria
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow had no information on Iranian plans to strike Israel from Syria, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
“We don’t have any information about anyone preparing an attack on Israel,” he said in response to Israeli claims that Iran is building missile sites in Syria and Lebanon to produce precision-guided missiles that could be used against Israel.
Lavrov’s comments come at a time when Israel has expressed alarm over Iranian maneuvers in Syria. Earlier this week, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of transforming Syria into a “base of military entrenchment as part of its declared goal to eradicate Israel.”
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