Islamic State fighters in Hezbollah deal evacuated to eastern Syria

BEIRUT, Weedah Hamzah and Peter Spinella (dpa) – Hundreds of Islamic State militants and family members have arrived in Syria's eastern province of Deir al-Zour after being evacuated from a Syrian-Lebanese border area, a monitoring group reported on Thursday.
The evacuation of the extremist group members and their families took place under a deal with the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement, which has been fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Some of the convoy, travelling from Syria's western Qalamoun area, arrived in Deir al-Zour last month. Another part was stranded for days in the western province of Homs after US-led coalition strikes hit a major road.
Eleven buses carrying a total of 200 jihadists and 200 members of their families arrived in Deir al-Zour's al-Mayadeen area late Wednesday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which independently monitors the conflict.
The journey was made possible in part by a "Russian-US agreement that the convoy can get through," the monitoring group said. In return for the evacuation, Islamic State handed over captive Lebanese fighter Ahmed Maatouk, Hezbollah announced.
Islamic State and other extremist organizations are excluded from a broad ceasefire that Russia has helped to broker in an effort to return some stability to Syria, which has been ravaged by a multi-sided civil war already in its sixth year.
On Thursday, Russian submarines in the Mediterranean Sea fired several cruise missiles at areas held by Islamic State around Deir al-Zour, the Russian Defence Ministry said.
The Kalibr missiles, fired from the Veliky Novgorod and Kolpino submarines, targeted Islamic State arsenals and command points some 500 to 670 kilometres away, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Russian submarines and surface warships in the Mediterranean have fired cruise missiles at Islamic State targets several times in recent months at various locations around Syria.
Meanwhile, the sixth round of Syrian peace talks in neutral Kazakhstan began on Thursday with meetings among the Russian and US delegations, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura and representatives of the Syrian state and armed opposition.
The talks, largely brokered by Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, have sought to establish safe zones for civilians.
The Russian delegation said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency that regional powers Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Kazakhstan and China, could provide monitoring in Syria as part of the peace effort.

Friday, September 15th 2017
Weedah Hamzah and Peter Spinella

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