Syrian government, rebels swap more than 100 prisoners in Hama

Syrian government, rebels swap more than 100 prisoners in Hama

Syrian government, rebels swap more than 100 prisoners in Hama

AFP photo

The Syrian government and rebel groups swapped dozens of women prisoners and hostages, some of them with their children, in Hama province on the evening of Feb. 7, a monitor and a rebel official said, according to Reuters. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitor, said government representatives and rebels exchanged 112 people, including 24 children, in the rebel-held Qalaat al-Madiq town in rural Hama. Many had been detained for years. 

About half the women were released from government prisons and then taken to opposition-held areas, the Observatory said. 

In return, the others, along with three unidentified men, were set free by various rebel groups and shuttled to government-controlled areas along the coast. 

Mohamad Rasheed, a spokesman for the Jaysh al-Nasr rebel group based in Hama, said a civilian committee that negotiates such exchanges with the government oversaw the swap on Feb. 7. 

The prisoners on both sides included children, he said, and “some of the women had given birth while detained.” 

Most of the hostages released by rebels were from the coastal Latakia province, the heartland of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, and had been held since 2013, Rasheed said. 

Syria opposition demands international observers in regime jails

Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition on Feb. 7 demanded international observers be allowed access to regime-run detention centers, after an Amnesty International investigation into mass hangings at a notorious government prison.

The damning report details the gruesome weekly ritual of group executions at Saydnaya prison that have left up to 13,000 people dead over five years.

In a statement on Feb. 7, the opposition National Coalition called for “immediately allowing international observers unobstructed access to detention centers and the immediate, unconditional release of all detainees.
Syrian Justice Ministry on Feb. 8 dismissed as “completely false” the Amnesty International report. 

The ministry said the Amnesty report was “completely untrue and intended to harm Syria’s reputation in international forums,” the official SANA news agency reported.

The death toll in air strikes against al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria in the northwest of the country has risen to 46, including 24 civilians, the Observatory said on Feb. 8.

The dead included 10 children and 11 women, the Observatory said, adding that the toll could rise further because of the number of wounded with serious injuries.

The raids hit the headquarters of former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham in Idlib and several adjacent neighborhoods of the city at dawn on Feb. 7.