After Week-long Battle, ISIS Loses Lebanese Border, to Evacuate Militants to Eastern Syria

ISIS militants to be evacuated as part of cease-fire deal with Lebanon and Hezbollah

Hezbollah fighters on the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017.
Bilal Hussein/AP

The Syrian army has agreed to a deal between Islamic State and Hezbollah that allows the transfer of Islamic State militants from the Syria-Lebanon border into eastern Syria, state media said on Sunday. 

"After the successes our armed forces and (Hezbollah) achieved in the western Qalamoun ... the deal arranged between Hezbollah and the terrorist Daesh group has been approved," Syrian state television said, citing a military source. 

It remained unclear whether the deal includes Islamic State militants only on Syria's side of the frontier or on Lebanese territory too. 

A ceasefire took effect on Sunday morning in the Islamic State enclave straddling the border, where the militants have been fighting Hezbollah with Syrian troops on one front and the Lebanese army on the other.

The two sides say they have driven the militants from most of the border region.

The U.S.-backed Lebanese military, which denies coordinating its offensive with the Syrian army, said the cease-fire is to allow negotiations over the fate of several Lebanese soldiers captured by militants three years ago.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil took to twitter to congratulate the Lebanese army on its "victory" over ISIS on Sunday morning.

In his tweets, Bassil said that "there weren't negotiations today, only a surrender" on the part of ISIS. He thanked the Lebanese army, and said that the next step is to address the matter of kidnapped soldiers, archbishops, and photographer Samir Kassab, who was kidnapped in 2013.

Al-Ikhbariya quoted an unnamed Syrian field commander as saying the militants have been driven out of some 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) in Syria. Syrian media say around 400 militants and their families are expected to be evacuated toward Deir el-Zour, a city in eastern Syria that is mostly controlled by ISIS.