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Lebanon truckers trapped in Syria crossing return home

Around thirty truck drivers trapped for almost two weeks in a Syria-Jordan border crossing return home

Published: Updated:

More than a dozen Lebanese truck drivers trapped for almost two weeks in a Syria-Jordan border crossing after it was seized by rebels have returned home, Lebanese authorities said Monday.

Around thirty drivers had become stuck at the Nasib crossing as they tried to cross from Syria to Jordan when it was seized by rebel fighters from regime forces on April 1.

Jordan closed the border crossing after it was overrun, but agreed to open it to allow the trapped drivers through after Lebanese government contacts.

Just one of the drivers now remains in the crossing,

Lebanese Agriculture Minister Akram Shehayeb said as he greeted eight returning drivers at Beirut airport.

"From a humanitarian point of view, the file is now closed," he told the media, without specifying what would happen to the driver still in Nasib.

Several drivers have already returned to Lebanon, while others remain in Jordan or the Gulf, waiting for their trucks to cross the border.

Rebel groups and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front had seized control of the border post and parts of the duty-free zone between the Syrian and Jordanian crossings.

When Jordan closed its side of the crossing, the truck drivers were unable to return into Syria or cross the border.

One of the drivers returning to Beirut on Monday said the men were held by Al-Nusra fighters for eight days before local residents "put pressure on Al-Nusra to release us".

After that the men stayed with civilians, "under the protection of the Free Syrian Army," Abdel Rahman Ahmed Huri said, until Lebanese government efforts resulted in the drivers being able to cross into Jordan.

The closure of the border between Syria and Jordan has been a heavy blow to Lebanese farmers and businessmen who rely on the route running from Lebanon through Syria into Jordan to get their goods to markets in the Gulf.

Lebanon has regularly suffered the consequences of the war in its larger neighbour, absorbing more than one million refugees since Syria's conflict began in March 2011.

A group of 25 Lebanese soldiers and policemen have been held hostage since last August by Al-Nusra and Islamic State group extremists after having been kidnapped from the Lebanese town of Arsal on the Syrian border.