Beirut – Several identical sources said that a deal was reached between Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and Al-Nusra Front to withdraw Nusra militants from the mountains of Arsal, in exchange for the release of five captured Hezbollah fighters.
Director General of the General Security Forces Abbas Ibrahim has confirmed on Thursday the implementation of ceasefire, adding that armed militants would head to Idlib (north-western Syria) in an organized manner and under the supervision of the Lebanese State, with the Lebanese Red Cross assuming logistical matters, pointing out that the agreement would be completed within days.
While the remaining terms of the deal, which Ibrahim described as “secret”, were not revealed, local media said that the agreement provided for the release of Hezbollah fighters held by Al-Nusra.
Reuters quoted well-informed sources as saying that remaining Nusra Front fighters were willing to accept safe passage to Syria’s rebel-held Idlib and talks were continuing to agree the route they would take.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), Rami Abdulrahman, noted that Qatar has contributed to the deal, without disclosing any further details on this matter.
For his part, the head of Arsal municipality, Bassel al-Hajiri, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the displaced people in Arsal camps had three voluntary options: the first is to “withdraw with Al-Nusra militants to the north of Syria in Idlib”; the second is to “head with Abu Taha al-Assali to the Syrian Qalamoun”, in reference to the initiative led by Abu Taha to return the displaced to their villages; and the third is to “remain in Arsal.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese sources in the eastern part of the country told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Lebanese Red Cross vehicles would enter Arsal on Friday to start logistical arrangements and register lists, noting that the implementation of the agreement would be under the supervision of the Lebanese Red Cross and the Public Security.
Fighting erupted in the mountains of Arsal last week, when Hezbollah launched its assault on Nusra Front militants.
The area has seen one of the most serious consequences of the Syrian civil war when Nusra Front and ISIS militants briefly overran the town of Arsal, abducting dozens of Lebanese soldiers and policemen.