US strike blocks IS convoy heading to eastern Syria

BEIRUT, Weedah Hamzah (dpa) - A US-led coalition strike on Wednesday has delayed the movement of buses carrying Islamic State militants heading to the hardline group's stronghold in eastern Syria, a monitor reported.
"The strike by the coalition caused a big crater in the road the convoy was going to take," Rami Abdel-Rahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

On Monday, buses carrying around 400 Islamic State extremists and their families moved from Syria's western Qalamoun region towards the extremist movement's eastern bastion of Deir al-Zour, bordering Iraq.
Abdel-Rahman told dpa that the convoy is now stuck in Hmeima, located in the eastern countryside of Homs and 90 kilometres south of the city of Deir al-Zour.
Earlier Wednesday, the US presidential envoy to the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk, criticized a deal that foresees Islamic State hardliners being moved to Deir al-Zour from Lebanon in exchange for the radical Sunni group handing over the bodies of fighters affiliated to the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement who were killed in Syria.
"Irreconcilable #ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent," McGurk wrote in a tweet, using a common abbreviation for Islamic State.
"Our @coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter #Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling 'caliphate,'" he added.
The evacuation falls under the deal reached between Islamic State and Hezbollah, which has been fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the rebels seeking to oust him.
The deal has also angered Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who called it "unacceptable."
He added in media remarks that Iraq was fighting and killing Islamic State militants and was not sending them to neighbouring Syria.
"This is an insult to the Iraqi people," he said in Baghdad.
"We want to end terrorism not move them from an area to another."
In recent months, US-backed Iraqi forces have driven Islamic State from large chunks of territory that the al-Qaeda splinter group had seized in a 2014 blitz.
On Wednesday, the daily Lebanese newspaper An Nahar reported that the US administration has been dismayed by the agreement between Hezbollah and Islamic State.
The newspaper added that Washington has decided to halt military support for Lebanon and retrieve around 50 tanks that it had convinced Saudi Arabia to pay for and provide for the Lebanese army to support it in its fight against terrorism.
There was no immediate official comment in Damascus or Washington.
On Wednesday, Lebanon declared victory over Islamic State in its north-eastern towns, less than two weeks after the army launched an offensive to expel the militants from the area bordering war-torn Syria.

Thursday, August 31st 2017
Weedah Hamzah

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