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  • Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an undated photo.

    Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in an undated photo. | Photo: AFP

Published 1 September 2017

The Hezbollah leader said he met with Syrian President Assad for approval of the evacuation of the last 300 Islamic State fighters in Lebanon to Deir al-Zor

Following recent successful offensives against Islamic State group terrorists on the Syria-Lebanon border, and the evacuation of the remaining militants after a ceasefire deal, the Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced that the “so-called Islamic State caliphate was defeated” in Lebanon.

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“We wanted the end of this battle to come at the hands of the Lebanese Army, and this is what happened. The so-called caliphate was defeated,” Nasrallah said during a televized address.

The leader of the Shia liberation organization said that the United States had threatened to cut support for the Lebanese state if they backed the offensive against the Islamic State group. Nasrallah praised the administration of Michel Aoun for moving forward with it anyway, which he called an “independent political decision.”

“The Americans informed the Lebanese state of their discontent” with the offensive, he said.

The initiation of the offensive in spite of this “is a very important development and an indication that reflects an independent political decision. It is one of the achievements of this new presidential term.”

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“The liberation operation on the Lebanese-Syrian border has worried Israel, which is losing allies in Syria. Lebanon will always have to be strong and strengthened because Israel is always seeking to control the area and the water sources,” the Hezbollah leader said.

Nasrallah also said that he recently travelled to Syria to meet personally with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, where he discussed the ceasefire agreement with the remaining Islamic State militants on the Lebanese border, which was negotiated in order to find out the location of Lebanese soldiers who were taken captive by the Islamic State group three years ago. The deal also entailed the return of the body of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard member killed by the terrorist organization.

“I myself visited President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and asked him to approve the Qalamoun deal. President Assad responded to our request for the sake of Lebanon even though it was of no benefit to Syria,” Nasrallah said.

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“We have a humanitarian cause. We wish you to help us,” he said he told Assad. “We can only know what happened to the soldiers through this compromise.”

With Syria's approval, roughly 300 “lightly-armed” Islamic State group members were travelling by caravan with family members to one of their last remaining strongholds in Syria's Deir al-Zor province. Syrian government forces are rapidly closing in on the Islamic State group controlled region.

The United States and Iraq have remained steadfastly opposed to the agreement, and the U.S. has conducted airstrikes to block the convoy's path, preventing them from reaching their destination and rerouting them. Brett McGurk, a top U.S. official for the U.S. coalition in Syria tweeted on Wednesday that it is “irreconcilable” for Islamic State group militants to be “bused across Syria to the Iraqi border without Iraq's consent.

In his remarks Nasrallah also condemned U.S. President Donald Trump for promoting nuclear war through his recent threats toward the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, also known as North Korea.

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