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Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian officials declined to immediately offer more details of the multilateral exchange. But the deal appeared to be mostly mediated by the resource-rich Gulf state of Qatar, which has supported Syrian rebels in their battle against Assad. The Turkish hostages arrived home on a Qatar Executive private jet, though Qatari officials did not speak there or in Lebanon.
The hostage deal is one of the more ambitious negotiated settlements to come out of Syria’s civil war, where the warring sides remain largely opposed to any bartered peace. But it suggested that the parties — and their regional backers — were more prepared to deal with each other than at any other previous time in the conflict.
Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war went on. Rebels assaulted a checkpoint in a progovernment suburb of Damascus on Saturday, setting off a suicide car bomb that killed 16 soldiers, activists said.
Rebels led by the al-Qaida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra or Nusra Front set off the bomb while assaulting a checkpoint near the town of Mleiha. The town lies beside the suburb of Jaramana, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It reported heavy fighting after the blast.
The state news agency SANA said the suicide blast wounded 15 people, most of them seriously.
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