More than 10,000 Syrians in Lebanon border area set to return

Newly arrived Syrian refugee women and children queue for registration and aid distribution in the town of Arsal, Lebanon, in this file photo of Feb. 17, 2014. (UNHCR)
Updated 30 July 2017
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More than 10,000 Syrians in Lebanon border area set to return

BEIRUT: More than 10,000 displaced Syrians in Lebanon’s mountainous border areas have registered their names to return home, following a local cease-fire between Hezbollah and militants.
Double that number is expected to eventually leave the areas around the town of Arsal, a local relief association said, with convoys expected to head back to Syria.
The majority of those leaving are expected to be civilians, but their number will also include fighters, some of whom are wanted by the Lebanese army.
Militants from Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), which was formerly known as Al-Nusra Front and was linked to Al-Qaeda, had earlier battled with Hezbollah in the barren and mountainous area.
Hussam Al-Ghali, general coordinator for the Union of Relief and Development Associations in Lebanon, told Arab News that JFS representatives went into the camps in Arsal after the cease-fire agreement, to register the names of families wanting to join convoys heading to Idlib in Syria.
Al-Ghali expects the total number of those registering to leave to reach 20,000.
An official in Arsal’s municipality told Arab News that “the itinerary of the convoys will vary, depending on the areas that the displaced are heading to.”
The convoys are expected to take different routes.
“The Saraya Ahl Al-Sham fighters, the majority of (whom were) in the Free Syrian Army … will follow the (route) of Arsal, Flita, Qalamoun,” the Arsal municipality official said.
The JFS militants and their families are expected to head toward Idlib, he added.
“The convoys will be under the responsibility of the Syrian regime forces and the Red Cross,” the official said.
He added that a number of Arsal residents who have registered their names have started selling their items, including refrigerators, washing machines, cars and furniture.
“The JFS is trying to convince the largest number of displaced people to join the convoys, in order to ensure the safety of the convoy, as most of the people will be civilians,” Al-Ghali said.
“Some people want to go to Idlib to reunite with their relatives; there are people who will go with the convoy and do not belong to JFS, so they are afraid to be counted as JFS members later on.”
An official in one of Arsal’s camps expected the convoys to start moving as of Sunday.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah media reported that three of its militiamen got lost in the barren and mountainous region, while Lebanese media reported that the JFS took them hostage. Hezbollah neither denied nor confirmed this.
Lebanese security sources confirmed that the JFS still has control posts in the area, and will only leave the locations after the complete implementation of the cease-fire.


Turkey launches air strike on Iraqi Kurdistan after killing of diplomat

Updated 19 July 2019
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Turkey launches air strike on Iraqi Kurdistan after killing of diplomat

  • Turkish vice consul to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead Wednesday in the local capital Irbil
  • Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is suspected to be involved in the killing

ANKARA: Turkey on Thursday launched an air attack on Iraqi Kurdistan in response to the killing of a Turkish diplomat in the region, the country’s defense minister said.
The Turkish vice consul to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region was shot dead Wednesday in the local capital Irbil. Police sources said two other people were also killed.
There was no claim of responsibility for the shooting, but many Iraqi experts have pointed to the probability that the Turkish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara considers a terrorist group, was behind the attack.
“Following the evil attack in Irbil, we have launched the most comprehensive air operation on Qandil and dealt a heavy blow to the (PKK) terror organization,” defense minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
Targets such as “armaments positions, lodgings, shelters and caves belonging to terrorists” were destroyed.
“Our fight against terror will continue with increasing determination until the last terrorist is neutralized and the blood of our martyrs will be avenged,” he added.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which now leads the regional government, enjoys good political and trade relations with Turkey.
But Turkey has been conducting a ground offensive and bombing campaign since May in the mountainous northern region to root out the PKK which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
Earlier this month, the PKK announced that one of those raids killed senior PKK leader Diyar Gharib Mohammed along with two other fighters.
A spokesman for the PKK’s armed branch denied the group was involved in Wednesday’s shooting.