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Lebanon army declares border ceasefire to negotiate deal with 'Islamic State'

The Lebanese army has announced a pause in fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border to allow negotiations over its soldiers held by "Islamic State" (IS). Syrian forces are also battling IS in the area with Hezbollah's help.

A temporary ceasefire took effect on Sunday in an "Islamic State" (IS) enclave along the Syria-Lebanon border, where both Lebanese and Syrian forces are locked in a battle against militants.

In August 2014, IS military captured nine soldiers after it overran the border town of Arsal. The aim of the truce near the town of Ras Baalbek was to "make way for the last phase of negotiations linked to the fate of the kidnapped soldiers," the Lebanese army said in a statement.

Read more: Masoud's list: From IS victim to terrorist hunter

The remains of eight Lebanese soldiers kidnapped by "Islamic State" militants in 2014 have been located, said Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanese General Security.

Authorities were in the process of exhuming the bodies from nearly the Lebanese-Syrian border, with at least six of the bodies had been transferred to Beirut's military hospital for DNA tests. The fate of the ninth soldier is still unknown.

Syrian war's spillover

Northeast Lebanon is facing the brunt of the protracted Syrian war, with IS and other jihadi groups increasing their presence in the border region.

Lebanese and Syrian armies launched simultaneous but separate military offensives in the IS-held area two weeks ago. Syrian troops have the support of Lebanon's Shiite group, Hezbollah, in the battle.

Read more: Hezbollah says IS faces defeat on Syria-Lebanon border

Syrian army and Hezbollah, too, announced a ceasefire in Syria's west Qalamoun border region, Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV reported Sunday. However, the US-backed Lebanese armed forces said they had coordinated the ceasefire with the Syrian government.

The US-led coalition opposes both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and IS in the Syrian war. A number of regional and international powers are backing different parties in this conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

ls,shs/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

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