US strikes IS militants heading to evacuation convoy

US strikes IS militants heading to evacuation convoy

The spokesman for the US -led coalition backing the SDF said earlier this month that there are 24,000 Arabs and 31,000 Kurds in the alliance.

The U.S. -led coalition says it has struck an Islamic State convoy coming from militant-held territory in Syria to meet IS evacuees being transferred there under a controversial deal brokered by Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group.

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.

Earlier, the coalition bombed a bridge and the road in the convoy's path to prevent it from reaching the area held by IS (also known as ISIS/ISIL) in eastern Syria, Dillon told AP.

The evacuation deal was negotiated between IS and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has intervened in the war in neighboring Syria to prop up the Damascus government.

It was part of a ceasefire agreed after offensives last week by the Lebanese army on one front, and the Syrian army and Hezbollah on another, that pushed Islamic State back into a small part of its enclave straddling the frontier.

"If we do identify and find ISIS fighters who have weapons - and like I said, we can discriminate between civilians and ISIS fighters - we will strike when we can.

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We would have hoped to have been celebrating with them alive", Lebanese president Michel Aoun said on Wednesday in a live address from the presidential palace.

The SDF alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is fighting inside Raqqa's city center, with the help of air strikes and special forces from the US -led coalition.

"We've seen ISIS use protective sites like hospitals and mosques, seen them drive in ambulances", Colonel Ryan said. The forces then simultaneously announced a halt in fighting on Sunday, to determine the fate of nine Lebanese troops captured by ISIS in 2014. "Either to go on with the battle and not know the fate of the soldiers or give in and know the fate of the soldiers", Aoun said. Under separate attacks from a US-led coalition and from the Russian-backed Syrian army, Isis rebels are gradually retreating from Raqqa into their other strongholds along the Euphrates valley east of the city, the de facto capital of the caliphate it declared in 2014. "We came and took responsibility by going to negotiations", he said.

"We fight the terrorists in Iraq".

"Who's going to pay for the delivery sent by Hassan Nasrallah to us?" wrote well-known writer Saleh al-Hamdani on his Facebook page, referring to Hezbollah's leader.

The parliamentary bloc of Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed Hezbollah, saying it orchestrated the agreement to ensure the escape of IS militants in return for the remains of Hezbollah fighters and a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed in Syria.

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