DAMASCUS, SYRIA (2:45 A.M.) – In a bid to resolve several years of deadlock in the mountainous West Qalamoun region, Moscow offered local rebel factions on the border between Syria and Lebanon a deal which would have the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Hezbollah (Lebanese paramilitary) withdraw from its checkpoints in the area if opposition groups agree to expel ISIS insurgents.
However, Islamist militants loyal to newly formed Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (Syrian Al-Qaeda branch) are not part of the agreement but were nevertheless offered an option to evacuate their forces to Idlib province, considered rebel heartland.
If local opposition factions comply and kick out ISIS militants, the SAA will allow government institutions in the area to run under rebel control, somewhat similar to the compromise situation in the East Qalamoun.
According to an opposition source, the unorthodox deal was offered under the table by the Russian Centre for Reconciliation on Sunday.
Rebel commanders are yet to reply to the enquiry.
Across the border in Lebanon, ISIS controls most of the northern part of Arsal while Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham controls the southern part. The two jihadist groups often clash with one another, as well as the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah.