Troops from both the army and have escorted Isis militants out of their territory on the border with in the first ever publicly agreed evacuation deal the Sunni jihadists have ever struck.
A pause in a week-old offensive by the Lebanese armed forces as well as Hezbollah to drive from towns it has held on the Lebanese-Syrian border since 2014 saw 25 injured Isis fighters moved in ambulances to a marshalling point for an evacuation convoy, the Hezbollah-run War Media Centre said on Monday.
An eyewitness told the AP that buses were being prepared to also carry the fighters’ families back to Isis’ last remaining strongholds in Eastern Syria.
Liberated from Isis, women burn their burqas and men shave off their beards
The incident – which marks the first time Isis has ever publicly agreed to an evacuation deal, instead of fighting to the death – has been hailed as a dramatic surrender by Lebanese and Hezbollah officials.
“We do not bargain. We are in the position of the victor and are imposing conditions,” Lebanese Internal Security General Abbas Ibrahim told reporters on Sunday.
Isis agreed to a ceasefire on Sunday after fighting the Lebanese army on one front and Hezbollah and the Syrian army on another, losing much of the territory in the mountainous enclave it holds on the border.
Part of the evacuation deal was supposed to ensure the safe return of nine Lebanese soldiers kidnapped when Isis overran the area in 2014.
In pictures: Isis’ weapons factories In pictures: Isis’ weapons factories
The victory has been bittersweet, however, as an army statement confirmed that eight bodies found near the town of Arsal had been identified as the missing servicemen.
The news was greeted with the tears of family members who have staged a tented protest outside government offices in Beirut since their loved ones went missing three years ago.
The families of those who lost relatives in suicide bomb attacks in nearby al-Qaa in 2016 condemned the deal, Lebanese state-run National News Agency reported.
So far dozens of militants and six Lebanese soldiers have been killed in the drive to oust Isis from Lebanese territory.
Two Hezbollah offensives against other Sunni militant groups in Syria’s north earlier this year proved successful.
There is no official coordination between the militant Shia group and the Syrian army with the Lebanese armed forces.
Hezbollah, an important Syrian government ally, has maintained a strong presence in the parts of Syria near the border with Lebanon for several years, helping President Bashar al-Assad to recapture several rebel-held towns and villages there.