Deal for Syria's Homs in exchange for civilians

2014-05-09 07:00
Destruction in the Juret al-Shayyah neighbourhood of the Syrian central city of Homs on July 16. (Shaam News Network, AFP)

Destruction in the Juret al-Shayyah neighbourhood of the Syrian central city of Homs on July 16. (Shaam News Network, AFP)

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Beirut - A deal securing the rebel evacuation of Syria's Homs is in exchange for the release of 40 Alawite women and children, an Iranian woman and 30 Syrian soldiers, a rebel spokesperson said on Thursday.

Under the agreement, "30 soldier prisoners and an officer held in Aleppo, as well as an Iranian woman" have been set free, said a spokesperson for the Islamic Front, a massive rebel alliance.

In addition, "40 Alawite civilians who were being held by the [extremist] Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and then left behind after they withdrew from Latakia province" earlier this year are being released, the Aleppo-based spokesperson added.

A rights activist from Latakia confirmed that all 40 Alawite civilians - who come from the same offshoot of Shi'ite Islam as President Bashar Assad - are women and children.

Fifteen of them were released on Wednesday, and the remainder due to be freed on Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Thursday, state television also reported their release, but made no mention of any soldiers or an Iranian woman being freed.

Safe passage

The 40 Alawites were among more than 100 who had been kidnapped by jihadist ISIL during August 2013 fighting between it and other rebels against the army.

Their release is in exchange safe passage for hundreds of rebels trapped in the besieged Old City of Homs, who are being evacuated to the north of Homs province.

At least 60 other women and children from Latakia remain unaccounted for.

The deal also involves the distribution of aid into Nubol and Zahraa, two Shiite, pro-regime towns in Aleppo province that are under siege by the rebels, said the spokesperson.

Rebels had initially reported the evacuation of Homs city's rebel bastion would be in exchange for Syrian, Iranian and Lebanese fighters.

The deal is unprecedented because it is the first deal signed between rebels, including the powerful Islamic Front, and the government's security agencies, after negotiations supervised by the ambassador of Damascus ally Iran.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict
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