Report: Second Phase of Hizbullah-Nusra Agreement to Witness Militants' Transfer to Syria

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The second phase of a ceasefire deal reached between Hizbullah and the jihadist al-Nusra Front group militants is due on Monday, amid reports that top Nusra official Abu Malek al-Talli has already moved to the border town of Arsal and will likely be flown to Turkey later on, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported.

The phase would see the transfer of Syrian fighters and refugees to Syria's northwestern province of Idlib.

Meanwhile, information obtained by the daily through eyewitnesses in Arsal, said that "al-Talli has moved from the outskirts of Arsal to the town itself to pave way for his transport to Turkey by air."

The daily said "the first stage included the release of a Syrian woman called Mayyada Allouch, who hails from the town of al-Qusayr and who had been arrested by the military judiciary since February 7 on charges of financing terrorism and transferring money to Nusra."

"Allouch was accompanied by her son, who was not arrested. They were taken to Arsal's outskirts in the afternoon," added the daily.

The second phase deals with the transfer of militants to Syrian territory in five batches, each coinciding with the release of one of Hizbullah's fighters captured by Nusra.

This will include the transfer of families of the militants and other displaced persons. The number of those wishing to leave Arsal's encampments and the Wadi Hmayyed area to return to Syria have dropped to 6400, according to the daily.

Hizbullah and the jihadist militants on Sunday exchanged the bodies of fighters as part of a ceasefire deal for the restive Syria-Lebanon border.

The truce, announced by Hizbullah and confirmed by Lebanon's General Security agency on Thursday, ended six days of a Hizbullah-led assault on al-Qaida's former Syrian branch in the mountainous border region of Arsal's outskirts.

Hizbullah'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 Hizbullah fighters who died in the battles," it said.

The second phase is due Monday with the return to Syria of around 9,000 jihadists and their families who have been in eastern Lebanon since the beginning of the Syria war, Hizbullah's news agency said.

In exchange, an undetermined number of Hizbullah 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-Qaida's affiliate in Syria until mid-2016 when it broke off ties, before going on to found a new jihadist-led alliance called Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which now controls large swathes of Idlib. 

Hizbullah launched its offensive on Jurud Arsal -- a barren border area used by militants as a hideout for several years -- on July 21.

The group took media outlets on several guided tours of the territory it had secured, including an underground base allegedly used by militants.

Military-style vests were piled in one corner near stacked sandbags. Papers were strewn all over the carpeted floor in one room, and crates of ammunition were stored in another. 

Hizbullah had cornered rival fighters in a small pocket of territory when it announced the truce. 

Head of Lebanon's General Security agency Major General Abbas Ibrahim confirmed the deal, saying it would also see the transfer "within days" of Syrian fighters and refugees to Idlib province with the help of Lebanon's Red Cross.

Tens of thousands of Syrian refugees live in the town of Arsal, adjacent to the border region, and an unknown number are also thought to have taken shelter in the surrounding mountains.

More than one million Syrians are registered with the United Nations as refugees in Lebanon, a country of just four million people. 

Comments 6
Thumb justice 31 July 2017, 09:45

"al-Talli has moved from the outskirts of Arsal to the town itself to pave way for his transport to Turkey by air."

Shukran Qatar.

Thumb marcus 31 July 2017, 10:49

Second Phase of theatrical production.

Thumb gigahabib 01 August 2017, 11:45

Lol, so what do you geniuses think "really" happened?

Missing hajjradwan 31 July 2017, 14:47

It's an even better deal for al Nusra than the one that was on the table before the battle. Nasrallah should tell the families of his dead fighters this truth.

Thumb gigahabib 01 August 2017, 11:46

The goal was to get Nusra out of Lebanon. Goal achieved.

Missing hajjradwan 01 August 2017, 16:20

Actually the attack on al Nusra came from the Syrian side and most of it's fighters withdrew from positions in Syria and into positions in Lebanon. It's also how they came to be here in the first place. If you recall during the battle of Qsayr, following a deal, the fighters within where given a corridor to safely withdraw towards the Lebanese border rather than Syria, creating this problem. Regardless the empty rhetoric the deal they have now will hopefully finally get them out of Lebanon and far away from the Lebanese border. The battle was unnecessary because a deal less beneficial to al Nusra was on the table but was rejected by Hezbollah. I suppose they thought this was going to be a walk in the park. Going back to your post I hope the next time Hezbollah has a goal that can be accomplished painlessly, they opt to sacrifice a bunch of your loved ones to achieve it instead like they sacrificed their own fighters. I'm sure you'll be cheering then as well.