ISIS convoy gets to Iraq border after more than two weeks as US backs away
A Hezbollah-regime convoy with hundreds of Islamic State fighters and family members has finally reached Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria, after it was blocked for two weeks by US airstrikes.
Ambulances and 17 buses began moving the ISIS group of more than 300 fighters and more than 300 relatives from southwestern Syria in late August, after a linked offensive between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army cleared the Islamic State from both sides of the Syria-Lebanon border. The convoy’s destination was al-Bukamal on the Iraq border, one of ISIS’s remaining strongholds as its territory shrinks into part of Deir ez-Zor Province.
Two days into the journey, US raids cratered the highway, stranding the convoy as it searched for another route. Eventually, 11 buses carried on while six returned to regime-held territory.
Last week, at the urging of Russia, the Americans finally called off aerial surveillance.
“The deal has been completed,” said a “commander in the [pro-Assad] military alliance” — probably a Hezbollah source — to Reuters.
The commanders said that, along the new route, ISIS freed a Hezbollah prisoner.
Earlier this week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah — highlighting the role of his forces in propping up the Assad regime and downplaying that of the regime’s military — declared “victory” in the 79-month Syrian conflict.