BEIRUT – Syrian state-run media say 42 people who were held for years by al-Qaida-linked insurgents in the country's northwest have been released as part of a deal to hand over areas around Damascus back to the government.
Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast images Tuesday of the released, including women and children, arriving by bus at a government-controlled checkpoint, kissing and hugging Syrian soldiers.
The 42 are the first batch of more than 80 who are to be released.
According to the deal, al-Qaida-linked fighters are to evacuate from a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus while some 5,000 people in two northwestern villages besieged by insurgents will be allowed to move to government-held areas.
This is the latest in evacuation deals —which are effectively capitulation — amid intense military offensives.