Thursday , August 18 2022

Hundreds of Syrian Refugees Return Home from Lebanon in Hezbollah-mediated Deal

Several hundred displaced Syrians in Lebanon have returned home on Wednesday to the Syrian town of Asal al-Ward, the National News Agency reported.

Around 300 refuges left the al-Nour encampment in the north-eastern border town of Arsal to Syria’s Asal al-Ward, which lies in the western part of Syria’s Qalamoun, NNA said, adding that they were accompanied by tight security measures.

Hezbollah arranged the deal in indirect talks with the Syrian rebel group Saraya Ahl al-Sham, said an official in the alliance fighting in support of the Damascus government.

Hezbollah also coordinated with the Lebanese military and with the Syrian government separately, securing crossings for refugees who want to leave, the official said.

Since early in the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, along with Iran and Russia, sending thousands of its forces to fight the mostly Sunni Syrian rebels.

Humanitarian agencies have recorded a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017, with more than 440,000 internally displaced people going back to their homes in the first six months of this year, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

More than one million registered Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon, a quarter of its population, the United Nations refugee agency says. The number is widely put at closer to 1.5 million. They are scattered across Lebanon, mostly in makeshift camps and often in severe poverty, and face the risk of arrest because of restrictions on legal residence and work.

The group of refugees returned on Wednesday as part of a local deal, not a broader agreement. Politicians are deeply divided over whether Lebanon should work directly with the Syrian government over the return of refugees, which Hezbollah and its allies advocate.

The influx of refugees has put added strain on Lebanon’s already frail water, electricity, and school networks. It had burdened the country’s social, economic and other sectors.

The World Bank says the Syrian crisis has pushed an estimated 200,000 Lebanese into poverty, adding to the nation’s one million poor.

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