ISIL evacuation deal sparks Iraqi outrage

ISIL evacuation deal sparks Iraqi outrage

Almost two dozen buses and 11 ambulances carried the militants and their families Monday from the area straddling the Syria-Lebanon border toward the Islamic State-held town of Boukamal in eastern Syria.

US-led coalition aircraft have carried out strikes to halt a convoy evacuating Islamic State militants from the Lebanon-Syria border area towards Iraq.

"According to an agreement between ISIL terrorists, the Lebanese Hizbollah and the Syrian regime, hundreds of ISIL militants left the Lebanese border areas and were taken with their arms and ammunition toward the Iraqi border areas", the Kurdistan Region Security Council said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Col. Dillon told the AP that Wednesday's airstrike hit vehicles identified as belonging to ISIS that were traveling from ISIS-held territory toward the convoy.

The evacuation deal followed separate but simultaneous weeklong offensives by the Lebanese army on one side of the border and by the Syrian government and Hezbollah on the other. The decision by the Syrian regime to seemingly dump ISIS fighters on the doorstep of Iraq so they become the "problem" of someone else will likely create distrust between Baghdad and Damascus as Iraqi and Syrian forces return to border areas that ISIS has held for three years.

More than 48 hours after they left the Syria-Lebanon border for eastern Syria, the buses carrying 300 militants and nearly as many of their relatives were stuck in a desert area on the outskirts of the largely IS-held Deir el-Zour province near the frontier with Iraq.

The transfer under Syrian military escort was agreed under a ceasefire deal.

The convoy being transferred into Syria included 308 militants with their small arms and 331 civilians, senior Hezbollah officials said.

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Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the global coalition to defeat ISIS, who just returned from a two-week jaunt across the Middle East including Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and Syria, offered the US stance.

"The Coalition was not a party to any agreement", said U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in a statement.

An estimated 20,000 people - about half of them children - are trapped in the city behind IS lines as the extremists attempt to hold out in the face of the USA -backed coalition offensive. It is part of a deal that came into effect after negotiations, led by Hezbollah, to determine the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured in 2014.

His army chief, Gen Joseph Aoun, meanwhile defended the evacuation deal, saying he had wanted to find the missing soldiers and not risk any more lives.

The coalition also said vows from the Syrian government and its allies to combat IS "ring hollow when they cut deals with and allow terrorists to transit territory under their control".

The Syrian government, backed by Russian air power and Iranian-organized militias including Hezbollah, has focused its military campaign in recent weeks on Deir el-Zour, where government troops have been besieged for years in the provincial capital.

"I had two choices: either I continue the battle and not know the soldiers' fate, or I submit to the situation and find out".

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