The Lebanese army was greeted warmly Wednesday upon its return to the country following the conclusion of the "Dawn of the Mountains" operation, at the end of which ISIS was forced to withdraw from its enclave on the Syrian border.
Lebanese citizens showered them with candy, served them cake and waved banners.
Lebanon's president and the chief of the army hailed the "victory" against ISIS at a press conference. "Today, we are announcing Lebanon's victory against terrorism. I dedicate this victory to all Lebanese, who can be proud of their army," President Michel Aoun said.
Syria also participated in the operation to root out the ISIS enclave on the Lebanese border. "Chances on the regional and international arenas are a product of the victories of the Syrian military and its allies in the fight against terror," said Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Meanwhile, in Baalbek—a city in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley—preparations were being finished for the operation's victory celebrations set to take place Thursday, marking the liberation of the mountain ranges on the Syrian border.
The celebration is being produced by Hezbollah and the organization's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is expected to speak.
The location was chosen based on the number of people it can hold, said a Hezbollah information official, adding signs communicating the messages of victory have already been hung onsite.
ISIS convoy fleeing Lebanon blocked from approaching Deir ez-Zor by US
The US-led coalition carried out two sets of air strikes on Wednesday to block Islamic State group fighters evacuated from Lebanon from reaching eastern Syria, its spokesman told AFP.
Hundreds of ISIS fighters as well as civilians were evacuated Monday from the border region between Lebanon and Syria under a ceasefire deal and were headed to an ISIS-held town near Syria's eastern frontier with Iraq.
Jihadists and civilians, including children, left the border region, but on Wednesday their buses were still held up at Hmaymah.
A first set of strikes hit the road leading from the Syrian town of Hmaymah to the ISIS-held town of Albukamal further east, said coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.
"To prevent the convoy from moving further east, we cratered the road and destroyed a small bridge," he told AFP.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the convoy was looking for a "new route" to reach Albukamal after the coalition strike.
Dillon said the US-led alliance was monitoring the convoy in real time and its last known location was near Hmaymah.
"If we are able to strike them without harming civilians, then we will do so," Dillon said.
Asked whether the presence of civilians had prompted the coalition to bomb the road instead of the convoy itself, Dillon said that would be "consistent" with protocol.
The stalled Islamic State evacuation convoy in eastern Syria will now travel north to government-held Sukhna before crossing towards Deir ez-Zor region, which is held by the jihadists, a commander in the pro-Syrian government military alliance said Thursday.
The commander said the location for the convoy to move into Islamic State territory had been changed and that part of the deal was already moving forward.
Hezbollah leader Nasrallah commented on the criticism levied against his organization by Iraq regarding the transfer of the ISIS fighters from the Syria-Lebanon border to northeast Syria, near the Iraqi border.
"The ISIS fighters and their families are being moved to Syrian, not Iraqi, territory. Most of them are of Syrian descent and only few remained in Lebanon," he said.
"310 defeated fighters won't turn the tide in Dir ez-Zor," he continued, "where estimates say there are tens of thousands of fighters. The agreement was the only way to conclude the matter of unearthing the fate of the Lebanese soldiers."
"No finger should be point in blame at the Syrian leadership," Nasrallah concluded. "Hezbollah brought them the agreement and they merely signed off on it."