Rebels and Syrian government swap prisoners outside Aleppo

AP News
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Posted: May 17, 2016 4:05 PM

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian rebels and government forces exchanged prisoners and dead fighters Tuesday near the divided city of Aleppo, the scene of some of the country's fiercest fighting in recent months.

Rebels released 25 prisoners and handed over 70 bodies to government forces in exchange for 12 prisoners and 11 bodies, in a deal arranged by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, activists said.

Among the prisoners freed by the rebels are a colonel for the Syrian Army's 14th Division, Special Forces, and a fighter with the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which fights alongside the government, according to Mamoun Khateeb, who heads the activist media agency Shahba Press. There was no information about who the government released in exchange.

Khateeb said it was one of the largest swaps between the two sides in recent memory but said it did not point to any truce between them.

A coalition of hard-line rebel factions known as Jaish al-Fatah, or Army of Conquest, launched a wide offensive along Aleppo's western outskirts earlier this month, capturing the village of Khan Touman and killing dozens of pro-government fighters, including 13 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Tuesday's exchange happened near the Rashideen suburb, four kilometers (2.5 miles) away from Khan Touman.