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Displacement of Syrians from 4 Towns is Price for Liberating Kidnapped Qataris - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut- Qatar is mediating between Iran and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham for a population swap deal in four Syrian towns, to secure the release of kidnapped Qataris in Iraq, an informed Lebanese source told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Wednesday.

The deal stipulated the complete evacuation of the two Shi’ite-majority towns of Fua and Kefraya in return for the safe passage of a similar number of civilians, fighters and their families from the “Hezbollah” besieged Madaya and Zabadani towns in the west Damascus suburbs to areas in northern Syria.

On the eve of the second stage of the deal, which saw the displacement of residents from what is currently known as the “four Syrian towns,” reports revealed that Qatar accepted to mediate between Tehran and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in order to secure the release of its abducted nationals.

The Qataris were kidnapped on December 16, 2015 from a desert hunting party in the province of Muthanna in Iraq.

The “Hezbollah Brigades,” which are close to Lebanon’s “Hezbollah,” were accused of standing behind the abduction.

The deal, which was rejected by Syrian opposition political and military parties, does not only includes the release of the abducted Qataris but is also employed by al-Nusra Front to open a connection line with Washington, via Qatar, and to enforce its presence as a main political party in any future deal reached between the new US administration and Moscow.

Director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman said: “The deal, signed between al-Nusra and the Iranian side, opens the way for the militant group and through Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham to get in touch with the Americans and to restore the group’s shaken relationship with Turkey.”

Abdel Rahman added: “Qatar has always played a mediating role in deals that included Al-Nusra, and has secured big sums of money. Today, we are facing a new mediation for an agreement that al-Nusra was highly paid for.”

Syrian opposition member Samir Nashar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba (Movement of the Noble Ones), of which a number of fighters are already present in Syria, agreed as part of the deal to release the kidnapped Qatari businessmen.

Another Syrian opposition source currently present in Turkey said it was extremely regretful to see thousands of Syrian residents being displaced from their towns as a price for the release of others.