IS start evacuating final position in Syria’s Qalamoun

Around 700 Islamic State militants and their families started evacuating their last stronghold in western Qalamoun region toward the eastern city of Bukamal on Monday, according to Xinhua reporters at the site.

Around 300 IS militants were among those who evacuated and the rest are their family members.

A total of 16 buses carrying the IS militants and their families left the barrens of Qara in western Qalamoun.

The evacuated also included 112 family members of IS who were brought from Lebanon’s Arsal to join their relatives from the IS in their evacuation to Bukamal.

Meanwhile, 25 wounded members were also transported by Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) to nearby hospitals in Qara for quick treatment before returning to the assembly point of the evacuees to leave Qara.

The move marked the first time IS militants fully evacuate an area they controlled under a deal and in buses provided by the government.

The Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and other rebels were evacuated from several areas recently in what was seen as a view of weakness and surrender.

But this time is the first when IS militants evacuate after fully surrendering and under the sight of journalists and cameras.

And it’s also the first instance where the Hezbollah fighters will be escorting the convoy through the desert to Bukamal, a city held by IS in Deir al-Zour province, which is expected to be the next target of the Syrian army and Hezbollah.

The evacuation comes after the IS militants were cornered in the barrens of Qara as a result of a wide-scale offensive launched 10 days ago by the Hezbollah fighters and the Syrian army against the terror-designated group in Qalamoun near the Lebanese territories.

After the recent progress against IS, the terror group surrendered in Qalamoun and demanded to be evacuated to the city of Bukamal.

In return, the terror group divulged the fate of Lebanese soldiers kidnapped in 2014. Unfortunately, it turned out that the Lebanese soldiers had been killed by IS.

The agreement of the evacuation was reached between Hezbollah and IS and agreed upon by the Syrian army.

The Syrian army said in a statement that it accepts the deal to save the blood of the soldiers.

Dubbed “If You Return We Will Return,” the operation in Qalamoun against IS aimed to clear the badlands of the western Qalamoun region in Syria from IS, just a couple of weeks after both allies dislodged the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front from areas in western Qalamoun and the adjacent Juroud Arsal barrens on the Lebanese side of the border.

In the last battle against Nusra, the Syrian army and Hezbollah were fighting on the Syrian side of the borders, and other fighters of Hezbollah were fighting on the Lebanese side of the frontier.

At the time, the Lebanese army wasn’t engaged in the fight but took defensive positions in case of any attempt by the Nusra militants to carry out counter attacks.

In this battle against IS, Hezbollah and the Syrian army are fighting in Syria, while the Lebanese army is fighting IS in Lebanon.

Lebanese officials said there was no coordination between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah or the Syrian army.

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