BEIRUT — A flurry of back-room Middle East diplomacy led to an ambitious international prisoner swap on Saturday that freed Lebanese citizens held by Syrian rebels and Turkish pilots kidnapped by Lebanese gunmen.
Late Saturday, a plane carrying the nine freed Lebanese captives arrived in Beirut from Istanbul while a plane from Beirut to Istanbul took the Turkish pilots home.
The swap was brokered and carried out by Lebanese, Turkish, Qatari and Palestinian officials, underlining the strong links between the warring parties in Syria and foreign powers, some of which have actively sought to influence the course of the war.
Some local reports said the Syrian government was expected to release a number of female prisoners as demanded by the rebels in exchange for the captives from Lebanon, which is home to Hezbollah, a Syrian ally. Some women were recently released, but it was unclear if that was part of the larger deal.
The full conclusion of the deal would be a rare bright spot in Syria’s civil war, which has left more than 100,000 dead.