Buses transferring thousands of people from Lebanon to opposition-controlled Syria arrived at Sa’an crossing in Hama on Thursday, after Hezbollah, Lebanese authorities, and the Syrian militant group Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) brokered a mass refugee and prisoner swap.
The transfer of around 10,000 people over the border, including a reported 120 militants carrying weapons began on Wednesday.
As part of the deal, three Hezbollah fighters were reportedly released by the Salafist fighters in exchange for HTS-aligned militants captured by Lebanon on Wednesday, according to head of the country’s General Security Major General Abbas Ibrahim.
The prisoner exchange had been delayed by several days, stalling the transfer of militants and refugees from Lebanon’s Arsal region to Syria’s Idlib.
The trade comes after Hezbollah and HTS, the Syrian militant group led by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Qaida-affiliate al-Nusra Front, struck a ceasefire in the area.
The deal was struck after the Lebanese army and the Shia militia retook some 95 percent of the territory previously controlled by HTS in Lebanon, prompting a ceasefire.