ISIS militants agree to leave Lebanon’s Arsal
Lebanese soldiers enter Arsal in armoured personnel carriers as smoke billows in the background, Aug 6, 2014 (File/AFP)
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The ISIS terrorists have agreed to leave the Lebanese border town of Arsal in 24 hours, and to release military and police hostages, sources say.
According to the Association of Muslim Scholars that mediated a 24-hour ceasefire on Wednesday, three more captured Lebanese soldiers were freed as part of the truce.
Top negotiator Sheikh Hossam al-Ghali, who is a member of the association, said the ceasefire between the two sides has been extended to 1600 GMT on Thursday.
"Most of the gunmen have begun moving toward Syria," Ghali added.
A senior Lebanese official confirmed the release of the soldiers, saying, "Our conditions are clear. We will accept nothing else than a complete withdrawal and the release of all soldiers and policemen."
Violence erupted in eastern Lebanon on Saturday afternoon after soldiers arrested a Syrian man who the army said confessed to belonging to the ISIS. Angered by the arrest, the militants opened fire on army checkpoints and stormed a police station in a border area.
The army announced on Monday that 22 Lebanese soldiers were missing, possibly taken hostage, while a military source said 16 others had been killed in clashes since Saturday.
On the same day, the army sent reinforcements and fired mortar rounds at militant positions in the mountains around the eastern border town of Arsal.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Tammam Salam has vowed that there would be “no leniency towards the terrorist killers and no appeasement for those who violate Lebanon’s territory and harm its people.”
The militants are said to have infiltrated into Lebanon from Syria’s mountainous al-Qalamoun region.