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US-Led Coalition Launches Strike Against ISIS Convoy Traveling to Iraqi Border

The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State said on Wednesday it carried out an airstrike to prevent a convoy of ISIS fighters and their families in Syria from traveling closer to the Syria-Iraq border.

“To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge,” AFP news agency reported Coalition spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon as saying.

In a statement, the Coalition said it did not strike the convoy: “In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the Coalition cratered the road heading east between Hamaymah and Abul Kamal to prevent the further transport of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners and struck individual vehicles and fighters that were clearly identified as ISIS.”

The announcement came after Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the Coalition, condemned the reported transfer of militants and their families from Qalamoun in Syria to Deir Ezzor near the border with Iraq.

On Wednesday, Mr. McGurk said in a series of tweets that the fighters should be killed on the battlefield, not released near Iraqi territory without Baghdad’s consent.

Earlier, the Kurdistan Security Council said it was “deeply alarmed” by the transfer of “hundreds of armed ISIL terrorists to [the] Iraqi border following the tripartite agreement” between the terror group, Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

Col. Dillon said the fighters would be “absolutely lucrative targets” for airstrikes. He added that the Coalition is monitoring the convoy in realtime.

According to news reports, around 300 ISIS fighters and their families were convoyed to Deir Ezzor governorate from Qalamoun, located about 330 miles north of Damascus near the Syria-Lebanon border. Syrian forces have been besieged by ISIS in Deir Ezzor city for several years.

Syria’s state news agency SANA reported on Monday that the regime, ISIS and Hezbollah had struck a deal. According to the reports, which cited an unnamed military source, ISIS fighters agreed to withdraw from Western Qalamoun to the eastern part of the country. The deal was reportedly agreed following a joint army and Hezbollah operation in the area that began on August 19, shortly after Lebanon intensified its efforts against the terror group in the border region.

On Monday, The New York Times reported that the Lebanese army was part of the deal and had agreed to release about 400 fighters and their family members to Deir Ezzor.

Col. Dillon said the Coalition was not a party to the agreement.

Dr. Omid Sabah, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Region presidency said in a statement on Wednesday that the Peshmerga would have “complete coordination and cooperation” with Iraqi forces to counter any threat to Iraq.

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