More than 7,000 refugees are being transported from Arsal, Lebanon to Idlib, Syria as part of a deal that Hezbollah made with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, a terrorist organization tied to al-Qaeda. The agreement came after Hezbollah’s six-day offensive to drive Jabhat from the mountains of Lebanon. With the transfer of refugee and Jabhat prisoners, Jabhat promises never to return to Lebanon. Hezbollah and the Lebanon army were in agreement that this deal was the best way to protect Lebanese citizens and the 1.5 million Syrian refugees within its borders.
08/03/2017 Lebanon (Irish Times) – A ceasefire and evacuation agreement between Hizbullah of the Lebanon and al-Qaeda’s Jabhat Fatah al-Sham got under way on Wednesday when more than 150 buses transported 7,777 Syrians from northeastern Lebanon to northwestern Syria.
The Lebanese military said 1,216 fighters with their side arms, their families, and refugees were accommodated in two convoys. Fighters from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) torched their positions before departing, indicating they would not be back.
The operation stalled on Tuesday after Jabhat made fresh demands on prisoner releases and exchanges. Once these were resolved, the convoys, monitored by the Red Crescent and Red Cross, left the Lebanese mountain town of Arsal for the Jabhat-controlled Idlib province.
UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Lisa Abu Khaledargued the repatriation of refugees might not be voluntary. She said the agency believed “conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria”. Fearing war, hardship and jihadi persecution, the majority of refugees in Arsal do not want to be transported to Idlib.