In a positive sign this Monday, a ceasefire deal was agreed between a former al Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and Hezbollah. This is according to the Lebanese militia’s statement. As part of the deal, around 9,000 Syrians, including jihadists, were set to cross from Lebanon into Syria.
In return, five Hezbollah fighters held by Jabhat al-Nusra were to be set free. Jabhat al-Nusra cut off ties with al-Qaeda when it rebranded last year. The terrorist group came to be known as Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS). Together with ISIS, the group took over large swathes of the border between Syria and Lebanon back in 2014.
The ceasefire deal was agreed last week after the Hezbollah, together with the Lebanese army, regained a huge percentage of the area controlled by HTS. An estimated 95% of the area has been captured back.
The first phase of the deal involved transporting of militia remains across the border by the Lebanese Red Cross. Around 15 ambulances were used whereas 150 buses were used to transport civilians from the border to the Syrian regions of Idlib and Qalamoun with the prisoner swap set to take place at Aleppo.
The UN refugee agency, not involved in the deal, expressed concerns, arguing that the safety of the refugees was not assured. “UNHCR believes that conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria,” said spokeswoman Lisa Abou Khaled.
The UN has been ineffective in its attempts at peace and have not been fruitful in the past. Kofi Annan himself questioned the UN’s commitment to the cause of achieving peace in Syria when he quit negotiating on behalf of the UN. So, why is the UN concerned over the return of civilians? These are a desperate people, some of them have never known peace since birth. Is the UN scared that people are taking matters into their own hands and negotiating peace? Negotiation being something that the UN has failed tremendously in the past with the so called peace talks in Geneva being massive failures.
For the sake of argument, let us pause to consider the alternative. Should the good people of Syria who are trapped in Lebanon refuse to take a chance of returning home? Should they wait for the UN to develop a strategy to ensure their safety? It is inconceivable. Considering the ineffectiveness of the attempts by the UN in the past, people would rather take the risk of crossing now than waiting for a dream that might never come to pass.
While what they go to in Syria is not a bed of roses or any bed really, recent ceasefire deals in Syria are a sign of hope for peace. For peace to prosper, for anything to prosper, people have to believe in it. If enough people believe and choose to take action then it becomes a possibility, however small, that peace will be attained.
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