Hezbollah and al-Qaeda affiliate exchange bodies of dead fighters

BEIRUT, Fadia Azar (dpa) – Hezbollah and a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate on Sunday began exchanging bodies of fighters killed in recent clashes in a Lebanese area on the border with Syria as part of a ceasefire deal between the two sides, Lebanese media reported.
The Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah was handing over nine bodies to the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham group in exchange for five bodies of its fighters, Hezbollah's al-Manar TV said.
Lebanon's General Security Directorate was overseeing the process, it said.

The operation was briefly delayed to allow for the identification of the bodies of two Hezbollah fighters, al-Manar said.
The swap was expected to be completed in the next few hours, private newspaper Annahar said.
On Thursday, Hezbollah announced a ceasefire with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, previously known as al-Nusra Front, on the outskirts of Arsal in north-eastern Lebanon.
This month, Hezbollah had launched a major attack with its allied Syrian forces to drive militants from both sides of the Lebanon-Syria border area.
The truce deal will also allow insurgents and families of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham to safely leave Lebanon for Idlib in north-western Syria, a stronghold of the radical Sunni group, in exchange for the release of Hezbollah fighters in captivity.
The al-Qaeda affiliate has presented to Lebanese security services and foreign aid groups involved in the process the names of 7,800 people who want to depart to Idlib, Lebanon's official National News Agency NNA reported.
Hezbollah is battling alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the rebels fighting to oust him.
Lebanon is home to more than 1.2 Syrian million refugees who mainly live in several informal camps scattered across eastern Lebanon. According to UN estimates, some 70,000 Syrian refugees live in camps in and around Arsal.
Last month, Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned that Syrian refugee camps in the country have turned into safe havens for extremists planning terrorist attacks.

Monday, July 31st 2017
Fadia Azar

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