Daesh asks Hizbollah, Syrian army for withdrawal from Syria-Lebanon border

ISIS in Syria

The military announced a cease-fire Sunday and a halt in its offensive against Daesh along its northeastern border with Syria, paving the ground for negotiations to decide the fate of Lebanese soldiers held hostage by the terror group.

According to military bodies, the military previously rejected a proposal by the Daesh extremists to leave for the northern province of Raqqa and told them to immediately surrender.

"Islamic State asked for negotiations and a withdrawal, and the Syrian side and Hezbollah agreed", the official said.

The group's War Media channel said the unilateral pause was "in the framework of a comprehensive agreement to end the battle in west Qalamun against Daesh (IS)".

The army has said the remaining missing troops were its "top concern" in its offensive against an estimated 600 ISIS fighters in the hilly border region.

The Lebanese army has said it is not coordinating its attack with the Syrian army or Hezbollah, which Washington classifies as a terrorist group.

The head of Lebanon's internal security agency says eight Lebanese soldiers who had been in captivity of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group since 2014 are nearly certainly dead.

About a week ago, the Lebanese army, Assad's army and Hezbollah began separate but simultaneous attacks against ISIS forces in the area.

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Under the first stage of the ceasefire deal, Hezbollah forces were digging there for remains thought to belong to some of the soldiers, said an official in the military alliance fighting in support of the Damascus government.

The soldiers were among more than 20 kidnapped in 2014 when militants linked to al-Qaida and Daesh, also known as ISIS, overran the border town, Arsal. Ibrahim said the search for a ninth soldier continues.

Coordinating with Hezbollah would be politically sensitive as Lebanon is a U.S. ally, and the USA has designated Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Damascus and the Lebanese militia movement Hezbollah are also now carrying out their anti-Daesh offensive on the Syrian side of the border.

In a speech last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the Iran-backed group had begun talks with Daesh on a truce.

Hezbollah has been fighting alongside troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011.

Last month, a Hizbollah offensive inside Lebanon against former Al Qaeda-affiliated militants resulted in negotiations that saw around 10,000 fighters and refugees return to Syria from the Arsal area.

"We see no evidence of substantive cooperation (between the army and Hizballah)", the diplomat added.

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