Stranded Syrian refugees in Arsal begin returning home
Some of the 2,000 Syrian refugees stranded on the border with Lebanon started heading back home to Syria on Friday after clashes between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants ended, The Daily Star Lebanon reported.
The refugees were stranded because they did not have proper legal papers in order for them to return to their country, a Lebanese security source told The Daily Star. However, by Friday evening some of their paperwork was being completed, allowing some of them to exit, the source added.
“We are making legal papers for them now. Every one of them will be able to cross to Syria once he gets his legal papers,” the source told the newspaper.
The refugees illegally crossed into Lebanon to the border town of Arsal when a deadly incursion by Islamist militants who come from Syria took place last Saturday. The gunmen withdrew from the town on Wednesday after five days of fighting with the Lebanese army but took a number of Lebanese soldiers as captives.
The source, meanwhile, did not specify how many of the 2,000 refugees had been able to re-enter Syria.
Dozens of Lebanese families also streamed back into Arsal Friday.
When militants left Arsal, they took 19 Lebanese soldiers and several other Internal Security Forces personnel as captive.
A security source told Reuters that the militants had sent the Lebanese government a list of 20 Islamist prisoners that they wanted freed in exchange. However, a government source later denied that a list had been sent to authorities.
The militants, who crossed into Lebanon, are an amalgamation of fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front and other Syrian rebels.