400 Syrian refugees in Lebanon return home

ARSAL, Lebanon: Nearly 400 refugees began leaving the Lebanese border town of Arsal to cross into Syria on Thursday, a rare case of returns which Lebanon’s government wants to encourage.
The convoy made up a very small fraction of the one million registered Syrian war refugees across Lebanon — about a quarter of its population —and of the 50,000 which local officials estimate live in Arsal.
People gathered in minivans and tractors in the morning, loading them with mattresses, water tanks and furniture. Lebanese security personnel recorded the names of Syrians as they passed through a checkpoint on the way out of Arsal.
The refugees were headed for Qalamoun across the border, a region cleared of insurgents by Syrian army offensives in which Lebanon’s Hizbullah movement played a leading role. Those leaving said they had submitted their names to Lebanese authorities, who in turn sent the names to Syria for approval from the state. Syrian state TV said hundreds of people arrived past a border crossing in the Damascus countryside.
Many said they were happy to be returning to Syria, and while some said their houses were fit to live in, others had heard their homes were destroyed. — Reuters