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Syrian regime releases 43 women as part of detainee swap - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand near empty swimming pools during what they said a military operation against rebels in al-Mansoura area in Aleppo countryside, June 3, 2013. (REUTERS/George Ourfalian)

Forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad stand near empty swimming pools during what they said a military operation against rebels in al-Mansoura area in Aleppo countryside, June 3, 2013. (REUTERS/George Ourfalian)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—The release of 43 female activists by the Syrian regime yesterday sparked speculations over the fate of the nine Shi’ite pilgrims held hostages by the North Storm Brigade in Aleppo since May 2012.

The kidnappers affiliated with the North Storm Brigade operating in Aleppo demanded the release of hundreds of women from the Syrian regime prisons in exchange for the nine hostages.

The chief of Lebanon’s General Security Directorate, Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim brokered a detainee swap between the regime and the rebel brigade where the nine pilgrims are to be released in exchange for hundreds of female activists.

Marwan Charbel, the Lebanese minister of interior and municipalities, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Lebanese government is waiting for the Turkish side to facilitate the detainee swap.

While Adham Zougheib, a son of one of the Shi’ite detainees, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the release of 43 female activists is a positive step on the part of the Syrian regime.

For his part, Abbas Zoughaib, a Shi’ite cleric tasked by the Supreme Shi’ite Islamic Council in Lebanon to tackle the hostages’ case, appeared optimistic, informing Asharq Al-Awsat that this might signal the beginning of the resolution of the case.

“The [Syrian] regime responded to the initiative put forward by Brig. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim in at beginning of Ramadan which stipulates that the regime releases a number of female prisoners in exchange for a number of the hostages,” he said.

The cleric continued: “We hope that the deal will be completed as soon as possible.”

In a statement issued last week, the North Storm Brigade warned Hezbollah of attempting to hinder the deal, urging the families of the detainees to increase pressures on “the party of Iran.”