Preparations begin for militants to leave Lebanon border region: Hezbollah media unit

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Preparations began on Monday for the transfer of militants and their relatives from Lebanon’s border region to Syria in exchange for Hezbollah prisoners, a Hezbollah media unit said.

As part of a local ceasefire between Hezbollah and Nusra Front jihadists that took effect last week, about 9,000 people would leave for rebel territory in Syria on Monday, it said earlier.

The deal includes the departure of all Nusra militants from Lebanon’s northeast border region around Arsal town, along with any civilians in nearby refugee camps who wish to leave. Nusra Front will release eight Hezbollah fighters under the agreement.

The first stage of the ceasefire, brokered by a Lebanese internal security agency, took place on Sunday as the two sides exchanged the bodies of fighters killed in clashes between them.

“Buses that will transport Nusra Front militants and their families have started arriving in Jroud Arsal,” the military media unit run by Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah group said.

Hezbollah captured most of the barren, mountainous zone of Jroud Arsal last week in an offensive with the Syrian army to drive the Sunni militants from their last foothold along the frontier.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; editing by John Stonestreet