The Latest: Al-Qaida in Syria nabs 3 Hezbollah fighters

July 30, 2017 GMT

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

A Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida says it has captured three fighters of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the Arsal region along the Syrian-Lebanese border.

The two sides exchanged the bodies of dead fighters on Sunday in the first stage of an agreement to restore order to the contested frontier zone. The al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front is expected to leave the border region in the coming stages, following two weeks of battles with Hezbollah and the Syrian army.

It is unclear how the new development will affect the agreement. The Fatah al-Sham Front was already holding five Hezbollah fighters prisoner.

The al-Qaida-linked Ibaa news agency published a photo of the three fighters on Sunday.

Hezbollah said Saturday a group of its fighters had gone missing.



6:45 p.m.

The Russian broadcaster Russia Today says one of its correspondents has been killed in Syria.

The broadcaster says Khaled al-Khatib, 25, was killed Sunday covering battles between the Syrian army and the Islamic State group in the country’s central desert. It said he was killed by an IS bullet. An accompanying photographer was also wounded.

RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said in a statement that the journalist’s death is “a very sad event for us all” and added that it was the first time that an RT contributor has died in a war zone.

Al-Khatib was a student at the University of Damascus, said the broadcaster.

RT is embedded with government forces in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is fighting a civil war against rebels and IS militants.


12:20 p.m.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station is reporting that the militant group is exchanging the bodies of dead fighters with al-Qaida along the Lebanese-Syrian border in the first stage of a settlement that would restore order to the border region.

Hezbollah says it is handing over the bodies of nine al-Qaida fighters in exchange for the bodies five of its own who were killed in two weeks of battles along the frontier. Al-Manar broadcast the report Sunday.

The fighting ended with a cease-fire Thursday to allow negotiations to proceed to send the al-Qaida fighters and their families to Syria’s northwest Idlib province, where an al-Qaida affiliate is in control. It would leave the Lebanese and Syrian states and Hezbollah in control of this contested stretch of the border.