File - In this June 19, 2016 file photo, Lebanese army soldiers work on a 130mm howitzer cannon, pointed at areas controlled by Islamic State group militants near Arsal, in northeast Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
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The long-delayed departure of a Free Syrian Army-affiliated group from the northeastern town of Arsal was finally completed Monday afternoon as buses carrying the rebels and civilians crossed the border.As the deal was concluded, the Lebanese Army moved to assume positions on the now-liberated outskirts of Arsal, in anticipation of an offensive against Daesh (ISIS) militants there. A convoy of 34 buses carrying over a thousand Saraya Ahl al-Sham fighters and their families left Arsal's outskirts Monday morning and arrived in Syria's Flita midafternoon. A security source told The Daily Star that 1,800 people left the outskirts, including around 350 fighters and 1,450 civilians – mostly family members. The source said that a number of other Syrian refugees who had volunteered to leave with the fighters changed their minds and were now looking to return to Assal al-Ward in Syria's western Qalamoun. General Security, which led negotiations for Monday's transfer, said all of the Syrian nationals returning to Syria were doing so voluntarily.The Army has been shelling Daesh positions as it prepares to launch the offensive against the militants. Syrian warplanes have also bombarded the militants' positions from the Syrian side of the border.
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