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More Syrians leave Lebanon for home

MASNAA: Syrian refugees board a minibus evacuating them from Lebanon at the Masnaa crossing on the Lebanon-Syria border yesterday, on their way back to Damascus. —AFP

MASNAA, Lebanon: Several dozen Syrian refugees left Lebanon for neighboring Syria yesterday as part of returns coordinated between both countries, an AFP reporter and authorities said. A total of 42 Syrians returned voluntarily from Lebanon through the Masnaa crossing to areas in Syria, Lebanese authorities said. A Lebanese coordinator said they were headed for areas including Moadmiyet al-Sham, a suburb of Damascus where the regime retook control from rebels in October 2016.

An AFP reporter saw men and women dressed in crisp clothes board a bus, some carrying bags or young children. Mohammad Nakhla, 58, was anxious to set foot in his home country for the first time in six years. “I’ve never felt better,” he said, as he waited to return with 10 family members to Moadmiyet al-Sham. Lebanon hosts just under one million registered refugees from the conflict in Syria, although authorities say the real number is much higher.

More and more are returning however as the regime reasserts its control over larger parts of the country. Damascus has approved the return of 450 Syrian refugees from Lebanon from a list of 3,000 requesting to do so, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA said this week. On Friday, the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said his powerful movement was creating a mechanism to help Syrian refugees return home, in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus.

Hassan Nasrallah said the group was setting up centers with phone numbers and social media accounts where refugees could sign up to return home. On Thursday, 294 Syrian refugees headed home from the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Earlier this year, around 500 refugees also left southern Lebanon for Syria in a return organized by Beirut and Damascus. Several thousand have independently left in recent years. More than 350,000 people have been killed and over half the country’s population displaced since Syria’s war started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.–AFP

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