Syrian activists: Talks between government forces, IS fail

July 31, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) — Negotiations between Syrian government forces and the Islamic State group for an exchange of prisoners in southern Syria failed to reach an agreement after IS imposed new conditions, activists said Tuesday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the talks were meant to lead to a deal under which IS would release captive civilians — about 30 women and children abducted last week during fighting in the southern province of Sweida.

In return, the government was to free 150 captured IS fighters and open a corridor for 100 besieged IS-linked fighters to leave the area of the fighting.

The Observatory said that instead, government forces resumed airstrikes on Tuesday, targeting some of the besieged IS-linked fighters near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Sweida 24, an activist collective, said the talks collapsed after IS put new conditions, including withdrawal of Syrian troops from Sweida and a comittment by the province’s residents not to take part in any attacks on IS in the future.

The collective also listed the names of the 30 civilians abducted last Wednesday, when a wave of S attacks in Sweida and the provincial capital killed more than 200 people.

Those abducted are members of the minority Druze community.

The Druze, followers of an esoteric offshoot of Islam, have kept their own local militias in the area. IS views them as apostates. The militants also have a history of abducting members of other religious minorities and keeping women as sex slaves.

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