Refugee convoy leaving
Arsal stopped at border

A convoy of Syrian refugees arrives Thursday in Masnaa. (AFP)

BEIRUT - A convoy of Syrian refugees fleeing violence-stricken Arsal for Syria’s Qalamoun was stopped Thursday evening at the Masnaa border crossing between Lebanon and Syria.


The refugee convoy transporting around 1750 people headed for Lebanon’s Chtaura after its failure to cross into Syria, NOW’s correspondent in the Beqaa reported.


He added that contacts were underway to resolve the issues preventing the Syrians’ return to their homeland.


Meanwhile, Lebanese General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim told LBC that “Every legal displaced Syrian can depart via [the] Masnaa [crossing].”


In turn, Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdel Karim Ali, said that “Syria welcomes the return of its citizens, and that is what the Syrian government has aimed for.”

“Those who did not enter [Lebanon] legally and formally may not cross the Lebanese border. Therefore, we are studying the lists of names of those [individuals] in coordination with Lebanese security to find a [way] for them to return to Syria.”


However, he added that “anyone who entered [Lebanon illegally] must put their affairs in order before departure.”


Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported earlier in the day that the refugee convoy had set out from Arsal toward the Qalamoun town of Maalula in an initiative spearheaded by nuns from a monastery in the Qalamoun town of Qara.


The convoy had moved from Arsal to the nearby town of Ras Baalbek on Wednesday night via a back road, the report added.


Sister Agnes—a Greek Catholic nun close to the Bashar al-Assad regime—told AFP that the Syrian refugees’ return was complicated by the fact that some of the men had not completed their mandatory Syrian military service.


However, she added that that the Syrian regime was not obstructing the return on the refugees.


Sister Agnes also told AFP that another 3000 refugees in Arsal had requested to return to their home-country.

A convoy of Syrian refugees arrives Thursday in Masnaa. (AFP)