Hezbollah and Al Qaeda exchange dead bodies of 14 fighters after ceasefire

Two militant groups were due to exchange bodies on Sunday after fierce fighting in a region of Lebanon that borders Syria. 

Hezbollah, a Shiite group that is an ally of both the Lebanese and Syrian governments, and Jabhat Fatel al Sham, a Syrian jihadi group linked to al Qaeda, swapped the dead in a deal facilitated by the Lebanese government. 

The two groups had been fighting in the mountainous region of Arsal after Hezbollah launched an offensive aimed at driving back Jabhat Fateh al Sham over the border to Syria. 

Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and jihadist militants began implementing a ceasefire deal for the Syria-Lebanon border, with an exchange of bodies of fighters killed in week-long clashes Credit: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

A ceasefire between the two groups came into effect on Thursday after Jabhat Fateh al Sham agreed to move its fighters and their families to Idlib, in Syria. 

The War Media Centre, an Arabic-language Twitter account affiliated with Hezbollah, said that nine bodies of Jabhat Fateh al Sham fighters would be handed over, and bodies of five Hezbollah fighters would be received in return. 

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Hezbollah’s leader, Hasan Nasrallah, said that his group “was in the face of a very big military victory” in Arsal. 

 A Hezbollah ambulance carrying the coffins of bodies of Nusra Front fighters in Labwe, Lebanon Credit: Reuters handout 

Al Jazeera reported that two dozen Hezbollah fighters died during the fighting, and that 150 Jabhat Fateh al Sham fighters had been killed. 

In 2014, Lebanese soldiers were taken hostage by jihadists in Arsal, leading to the outbreak of serious fighting in the town. Four soldiers were later executed.

Sporadic fighting between the army and the jihadists has continued since then. 

Hezbollah took journalists on a tour of the newly captured areas yesterday, and showed them an array of military hardware.

The victory, and its presentation to the press, are signs of the confidence of…

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