Saraya Ahl Al-Sham begins to leave Lebanese territory

BEIRUT: Around 350 fighters from Saraya Ahl Al-Sham — a militant group formerly linked with the Free Syria Army (FSA) — were scheduled to start pulling out from Wadi Hmeid in Lebanon’s mountainous border region on Saturday morning, according to a Lebanese military source.
The source told Arab News on Friday that the fighters would be heading for Ruhaiba in Syria. “The departure of the fighters will end the abnormal situation that has prevailed in the barren and mountainous areas and will pave the way for the Lebanese army to restore its control over this area,” he added.
“With the withdrawal of the last fighter, the Lebanese army will deploy in preparation for confrontations with members of Daesh who are hiding in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and Qaa,” the source continued, referencing two towns on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria.
According to Hezbollah’s Military Media Center, on Thursday the Syrian Air Force carried out heavy raids on Daesh sites in the Hashishat hills and around Al-Jarajir, as well as the border crossing of Fikha.
The Lebanese military source compared the Syrian raids to “those carried out by the Lebanese Air Force against Daesh sites in order to put pressure on the militants; it is a preliminary bombing paving the way for the next battle.”
Along with the 350 militants leaving Wadi Hmeid to Ruhaiba with their families, 2,000 displaced Syrian civilians will also be in the same convoy.
Abu Mohammed, who is in charge of a Syrian refugee camp on the outskirts of Arsal, said that two families from his camp will join the convoy.
“Those who are leaving will head toward a town controlled by the FSA, (in accordance with) an agreement that took place about two months ago between the Syrian regime and the FSA, allowing the entry of food and people into Ruhaiba, with the approval of the regime,” he told Arab News.
Saraya Ahl Al-Sham refrained from engaging Hezbollah in combat in the fighting that took place two weeks ago in the mountainous border regions. Instead, the opposition fighters withdrew to Wadi Hmeid, where their families are located. Only once they had withdrawn did the Lebanese army moved into the border area, in order to avoid any possible confrontation.
Bassel Al-Hujairi, the mayor of Arsal, told Arab News that his municipality would provide guidance to those leaving the area, should they need help.
“The Lebanese Red Cross will also accompany them to the border. Once they get into Syrian territory, the Syrian Red Crescent will accompany them, in case of emergency,” he added. He also explained that fighters and civilians would be travelling in their own vehicles.
Al-Hujairi stressed that “the most important issue is that all armed factions leave to put an end to this abnormal situation, because the army’s progress in these areas is related to their withdrawal, and any delay in their departure will delay the deployment of the Lebanese army.”
The FSA leader in Ruhaiba, Firas Al-Bitar, has previously refused to allow the entry of Saraya Ahl al-Sham militants to the town, claiming that they are “Hezbollah’s agents.”
However, Saraya Ahl Al-Sham spokesman Omar Al-Sheikh was on Friday reported to have confirmed that 350 of the group’s fighters along with “dozens of their families” would depart Arsal for Ruhaiba on Saturday morning.

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BEIRUT: Around 350 fighters from Saraya Ahl Al-Sham — a militant group formerly linked with the Free Syria Army (FSA) — were scheduled to start pulling out from Wadi Hmeid in Lebanon’s mountainous border region on Saturday morning, according to a Lebanese military source.
The source told Arab News on Friday that the fighters would be heading for Ruhaiba in Syria. “The departure of the fighters will end the abnormal situation that has prevailed in the barren and mountainous areas and will pave the way for the Lebanese army to restore its control over this area,” he added.
“With the withdrawal of the last fighter, the Lebanese army will deploy in preparation for confrontations with members of Daesh who are hiding in the outskirts of Ras Baalbek and Qaa,” the source continued, referencing two towns on Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria.
According to Hezbollah’s Military Media Center, on Thursday the Syrian Air Force carried out heavy raids on Daesh sites in the Hashishat hills and around Al-Jarajir, as well as the border crossing of Fikha.
The Lebanese military source compared the Syrian raids to “those carried out by the Lebanese Air Force against Daesh sites in order to put pressure on the militants; it is a preliminary bombing paving the way for the next battle.”
Along with the 350 militants leaving Wadi Hmeid to Ruhaiba with their families, 2,000 displaced Syrian civilians will also be in the same convoy.
Abu Mohammed, who is in charge of a Syrian refugee camp on the outskirts of Arsal, said that two families from his camp will join the convoy.
“Those who are leaving will head toward a town controlled by the FSA, (in accordance with) an agreement that took place about two months ago between the Syrian regime and the FSA, allowing the entry of food and people into Ruhaiba, with the approval of the regime,” he told Arab News.
Saraya Ahl Al-Sham refrained from engaging Hezbollah in combat in the fighting that took place two weeks ago in the mountainous border regions. Instead, the opposition fighters withdrew to Wadi Hmeid, where their families are located. Only once they had withdrawn did the Lebanese army moved into the border area, in order to avoid any possible confrontation.
Bassel Al-Hujairi, the mayor of Arsal, told Arab News that his municipality would provide guidance to those leaving the area, should they need help.
“The Lebanese Red Cross will also accompany them to the border. Once they get into Syrian territory, the Syrian Red Crescent will accompany them, in case of emergency,” he added. He also explained that fighters and civilians would be travelling in their own vehicles.
Al-Hujairi stressed that “the most important issue is that all armed factions leave to put an end to this abnormal situation, because the army’s progress in these areas is related to their withdrawal, and any delay in their departure will delay the deployment of the Lebanese army.”
The FSA leader in Ruhaiba, Firas Al-Bitar, has previously refused to allow the entry of Saraya Ahl al-Sham militants to the town, claiming that they are “Hezbollah’s agents.”
However, Saraya Ahl Al-Sham spokesman Omar Al-Sheikh was on Friday reported to have confirmed that 350 of the group’s fighters along with “dozens of their families” would depart Arsal for Ruhaiba on Saturday morning.

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