US-led strike in Syria blocks IS militants evacuated from Lebanon

BEIRUT/BAGHDAD: The US-led coalition carried out an air strike on Wednesday to block IS group fighters evacuated from Lebanon from reaching eastern Syria, its spokesman said.
Hundreds of IS fighters and civilians were evacuated on Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria under a ceasefire deal and were headed to an IS-held town near Syria’s eastern frontier with Iraq.
“To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge,” said coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon, without providing further details on the exact location.
“IS is a global threat; relocating terrorists from one place to another for someone else to deal with is not a lasting solution,” he added.
The evacuation deal was negotiated between IS and powerful Lebanese movement Hezbollah, which has intervened in the war in neighbouring Syria to prop up the Damascus government.
Hezbollah had fought a week-long offensive against IS on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, coinciding with a simultaneous assault by Lebanese troops on their side of the frontier.
The battles ended on Sunday with the announcement of a deal that would see IS forces bussed hundreds of kilometres from Syria’s western border with Lebanon to its eastern frontier with Iraq.
Militants and civilians, including children, left the border region two days ago, but on Wednesday their buses were still held up at the entrance to Deir Ezzor province.
“We know and understand that there are civilians” aboard the buses, Dillon said.
House-by-house fight: Meanwhile, Iraqi forces backed by paramilitaries began fighting house-by-house in the one town left to take from IS before they can declare complete victory over the group’s former stronghold of Tal Afar, military commanders said.
Hundreds of battle-hardened IS militants are defending Al Ayadiya, a small town outside Tal Afar which itself is about 80 km west of Mosul, the former de facto IS capital in northern Iraq that was recaptured in July, army officers said.
“Our soldiers now are engaging in a street fight with the militant group in Al Ayadiya,” Lieutenant General Qasim Nazzal told state television, adding that fighters in groups of three were barricaded inside “every single house and building”.
— AFP/Reuters