US-led warplanes have blocked a convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families from reaching territory the group holds in east Syria and struck some of their comrades travelling to meet them, a coalition spokesman says.
The strikes were aimed at stopping an evacuation deal for IS fighters to leave their enclave on the Lebanon-Syria border for areas they hold in eastern Syria, arranged by the Lebanese Hezbollah group and the Syrian army.
It was part of a ceasefire agreed after offensives last week by the Lebanese army on one front, and the Syrian army and Hezbollah on another, that pushed IS back into a small part of its enclave straddling the frontier.
The deal has been criticised by the coalition and by Iraq, whose army is also fighting against IS in areas contiguous with the eastern Syria region to which the convoy was headed.
The convoy, carrying 308 militants and 331 civilians according to Hezbollah, is now effectively stranded, unable to move forward into IS territory.
The coalition strikes to block the convoy moving into IS territory took place on Wednesday east of Humeima, near the edge of land held by the Syrian government, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon told Reuters.
“We did crater the road and destroyed a small bridge to prevent this convoy from moving further east,” Dillon told Reuters by phone.
He later said the coalition had struck vehicles containing IS fighters that were heading to that area from deeper inside the territory they control to the east.
He did not know if the evacuation convoy, which contains buses of fighters and their family members, as well as ambulances carrying wounded fighters, was now in IS or Syrian government territory.
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