US airstrikes block evacuation of Islamic State militants


By BASSEM MROUE and JOSH LEDERMAN
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BEIRUT (AP) – U.S. airstrikes blocked the advance of an Islamic State convoy carrying militants towards Iraq on Wednesday, derailing a Hezbollah-negotiated deal that eliminated the extremists from the Lebanon-Syria border, the place they’ve been for years.

The airstrikes got here amid U.S. criticism of the deal, reflecting a rising outrage inside the Trump administration over the choice to provide the militants protected passage from the battlefield as an alternative of killing them, and Iran-backed Hezbollah’s main position in it.

The developments additionally have been a humiliation for the U.S.-backed Lebanese army, which agreed to the deal and had declared victory over the militants.

U.S. officers stated the airstrikes to disrupt the fleeing militants have been meant to ship a robust sign that the deal, whereas serving to to clear IS from the border, undermined a broader U.S.-led technique for defeating the group in Syria and Iraq.

Greater than forty eight hours after they left the Syria-Lebanon border for japanese Syria, the buses carrying 300 militants and virtually as lots of their relations have been caught in a desert space on the outskirts of the largely IS-held Deir el-Zour province close to the frontier with Iraq.

It isn’t clear how the standoff will probably be resolved. Syrian activists say alternate routes are being thought-about to deliver the militants to Boukamal, an IS-managed city on the Iraqi border, based on the settlement.

However officers of the U.S.-led coalition stated they may proceed to watch the convoy and are not ruling out extra airstrikes.

“Irreconcilable (IS) terrorists must be killed on the battlefield, not bused throughout Syria to the Iraqi border with out Iraq’s consent,” in response to a tweet from Brett McGurk, the highest U.S. envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition.

The evacuation deal adopted separate however simultaneous weeklong offensives by the Lebanese military on one aspect of the border and by the Syrian authorities and Hezbollah on the opposite. Hezbollah has hundreds of fighters shoring up the forces of President Bashar Assad.

Iraq additionally reacted angrily to the evacuation, with its president saying that shifting the militants to the Iraqi-Syrian border was an “insult.”

Later Wednesday, the coalition stated its warplanes struck a small bridge and cratered a street to…



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