A bus carries ISIS militants and their families from the Lebanon-Syria border towards Deir ez-Zor on Monday. Photo: Louai Beshara | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The US-led anti-ISIS coalition is looking for a solution in order to end the “suffering” of women and children in the ISIS convoy stuck in the Syrian desert.
A coalition statement said they had delivered a message to Damascus, via the regime’s ally Russia, that they will not allow the fighters to move closer to the Iraqi border and suggesting a “course of action to save the women and children from any further suffering as a result of the Syrian regime's agreement.”
The convoy of 17 buses carrying hundreds of ISIS militants and their families is still in the Syrian desert between Humayma and As Sukhnah, where the coalition is targeting ISIS vehicles attempting to assist the convoy.
“The Coalition has not struck the convoy. In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the Coalition has struck ISIS fighters and vehicles, including a tank, armed technical vehicles, and transport vehicles seeking to facilitate the movement of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners. Food and water have been provided to the convoy,” read a statement issued by the coalition Friday night.
The Syrian army and Hezbollah in Lebanon agreed to a deal over the weekend that allowed an ISIS convoy to relocate from their enclave on the Lebanon-Syria border to the eastern province of Deir ez-Zor.
Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the coalition were not a part of the agreement and all three have objected to allowing
the ISIS militants into the Syria-Iraq border region.
A reportedly “embarrassed” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to the deal for the sake of Lebanon.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called the deal an “insult” to the people of Iraq.
Kurdistan security issued a statement saying they were concerned about the “suspicious” move.
Reports indicate more than 300 ISIS fighters with small arms are on the buses, though Iraqi intelligence officials fear that number may be much higher
The Middle Euphrates River Valley stretching from Deir ez-Zor across the border and into Iraq currently has the largest concentration of ISIS fighters and leadership.