Syrian Rebels Free 48 Iranians in Prisoner Swap
In exchange, regime releases more than 2,000
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2013 8:25 AM CST
In this Sunday Jan. 6, 2013 photo Syrian rebel fighters take their positions on the frontline of the ongoing battle for the military airport in Taftanaz, Syria.   (Mustafa Karali)

(Newser) – Syrian rebels freed 48 Iranians held captive since August, Iranian state TV reported today, part of what appeared to be the first major prisoner swap of the civil war. The deal—reportedly coordinated by a Turkish Islamic aid group—will also involve the release of more than 2,000 held by Bashar al-Assad's regime, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported. Anadolu said a group of people held in the Syrian Interior Ministry building in Damascus had been released and were escorted onto buses. The group included women and children, it said, but gave no further details.

Iran is one of Assad's main backers and the hostages were a major bargaining chip for opposition factions trying to bring down his regime. Rebels accused the Iranian captives, who were kidnapped outside Damascus in August, of links to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, but Iran has denied the claims and described the hostages as pilgrims visiting Shiite religious sites. Anadolu reports that the exchange involved 2,130 prisoners in total, including four Turks.

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Jan 11, 2013 2:31 AM CST
The free world must invade Syria by land, sea and air. The Syrian dictator Assad must be removed from power. America is all about truth, justice and the American way of life. Let us pray for the safety of the Syrian freedom fighters. God bless the Syrian revolutionaries attempting to remove Assad from power. Even Jesus hates Assad. AMEN.
Jan 9, 2013 9:39 AM CST
The Syrian army has killed several foreign-backed militants in suburbs of the southern Syrian city of Dara’a. Meanwhile, a mortar shell has hit a hotel in the Syrian capital Damascus, causing damages to the building. President al-Assad Issues Legislative Decree on Establishing Social Care Centers President Bashar al-Assad on Monday issued Legislative Decree No. 2 for 2013, stipulating for establishing social care centers by a decision from the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor in coordination with the Local Administration Minister. In a statement to SANA, Social Affairs and Labor Minister Dr. Jassem Mohammad Zakaraya said that establishing centers for social care will help provide care and services to certain social groups such as the elderly and orphaned children, in addition to individuals with psychological disorders after they receive treatment. Zakaraya said that these centers will be run by the Ministry's staff to provide social support for those who need it and help their families, adding that this could also be done in cooperation with civil societies working in relevant fields. Cabinet Discusses Implementing President al-Assad's National Program Minister of Information, Omran al-Zoubi, said the Cabinet is meeting in the framework of implementing the presidential commissioning towards finding mechanisms and putting into effect the ideas and the national program which were included in President Bashar al-Assad's speech for solving the crisis in Syria. The Minister added in press statements on Tuesday that the discussions going on at the Cabinet session deal with all the details of the crisis the country is going through from a historical and temporal aspect since the very start of the events. Al-Zoubi noted that the internal and external political situation and the current challenges and the capabilities available are all on the table. He told the journalists that the situation is being looked at with "a deep and serious view" based on a national basis according to the indisputable concepts of the national sovereignty and the independence of the national decision. The Minister affirmed that "all opposition forces are invited to participate in a national dialogue that is based on respecting national sovereignty and the rejection of foreign interference in all its forms as well as the acts of domination and guardianship over the national decision." He reiterated that the discussion is addressing all aspects starting with that related to violence and terrorism and terrorist organizations and members and passing through issues concerning the economy, public freedoms, human rights and detainees as well as the details and essence of the national dialogue and how it should be conducted and with whom. The Information Minister described the discussion as "long, comprehensive and difficult as there are many views, suggestions and concepts," pointing out that there will be a committee of the Cabinet that will start contacting all political national and societal forces and figures as to pave the way for holding the national dialogue conference. Answering a question on the timing of President al-Assad's speech, al-Zoubi said the speech "is not connected to any dates except for the Syrian timing as it came after the situation has become mature to deliver this national program which aims at overcoming the crisis." The Minister expressed wonder "how it was possible for some foreign ministers to take a position on President al-Assad's speech and the proposed program even before enough time to translate it." Parties: President Al-Assad's Speech Contributes to Finding Way out of Crisis The Public Will Party said that the political solution plan announced by President Bashar al-Assad to put an end to the crisis in Syria opens the way to a safe way out of the crisis. In a statement released on Tuesday, the party stressed that "In the last week, the crisis in Syria entered a new turn as different sides with different paths agreed on the political solution". The party highlighted that "The sides which reject the dialogue will be responsible for the Syrian bloodshed", calling for the dialogue to be public and open with all issues discussed in front the Syrian people. Al-Tale'a Party: President al-Assad's Speech Is Road Map to Solution The Democratic al- Tale'a (Front) Party said that the speech delivered by president al-Assad is the right and accurate prescription to solve the crisis in Syria, especially that it is sovereign and independent. In a statement, the party added that "The plan stressed that the Syrians have no choice but to be with or against their country because the battle is with external enemies." The party stressed that "The most important point in the speech was that everybody, except for sides affiliated to external sides, were called and invited to participate in reaching a Syrian national solution." Al-Ahed National Party: President al-Assad's Plan Provides a Mature Image of Political Solution Meanwhile, al-Ahed (Pledge) National Party stressed that the plan proposed by President al-Assad for solving the crisis in Syria constitutes a turning point in vision and provides a mature image of the political solution which should be adopted as based on national dialogue to reach the national reconciliation. "President al-Assad presented, in his position of the historic responsibility which lies on his shoulders, a clear and specific political vision for resolving the crisis," the Party said in a statement. The statement highly valued all the ideas which came in the plan, particularly those related to holding a dialogue conference and coming up with a national pact so as to achive the comprehensive reconciliation and general amnesty. Al-Ahed National Party affirmed its support for the political solution and unifying its efforts with those of all other parties and forces to reach dialogue, warning of the great risks that lie in the rejection of dialogue.
Jan 9, 2013 9:36 AM CST
this is about as cheap a ploy as possible. the rebels will not be an iran ally