'Lebanon has triumphed over ISIS terrorism'

Iraq's government and the US -led military coalition on Wednesday denounced an agreement that allows Islamic State fighters safe passage across Syria.

Earlier, the coalition bombed a bridge and the road in the convoy's path to prevent it from reaching the area held by IS (also known as ISIS/ISIL) in eastern Syria, Dillon told AP.

The coalition said in a statement it did not strike the convoy but did hit "individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS".

US 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.

It insisted that it was merely coincidental that both sides simultaneously began an offensive against the Islamic State over a week ago and that both sides declared a cease-fire in their fights against the militant group at about the same time on Sunday.

ISIS agreed to a ceasefire on two fronts on the Lebanon-Syria border region with the Lebanese army on one front and Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other, ending a week-long confrontation.

The top USA envoy for the global 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".

"Our coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling "caliphate," McGurk added".

Almost two dozen buses and 11 ambulances carried the militants and their families Monday from the area straddling the Syria-Lebanon border toward the Islamic State-held town of Boukamal in eastern Syria.

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

The Lebanese military on Monday took journalists on a tour of areas along the border near Ras Baalbek that were recaptured from the Islamic State in the past week.

On Wednesday morning, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun hailed the country's "victory over terrorism" and said its citizens could "be proud of their army".

Critics inside Lebanon say Hezbollah's involvement in Syria inflamed sectarian tensions at home and brought jihadists to the door.

The SDF alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is fighting inside Raqqa's city center, with the help of air strikes and special forces from the USA -led coalition. "Hezbollah's answer was categorical, that is, any solution, whether it be partial or whole, must first include the fate of the soldiers". "We came and took responsibility by going to negotiations", he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in London, reported on Wednesday that 64 combatants had been killed in the past 24 hours, and 150 in the past six days.

Last month, President Donald Trump stood alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and praised Lebanon for being on the "front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah".

  • Joey Payne