MASNA, Lebanon — Rebels in Syria freed 13 Greek Orthodox nuns today, ending their three-month captivity in exchange for Syrian authorities releasing dozens of female prisoners.
The release of the nuns and their three helpers is a rare successful prisoner exchange between Syrian government authorities and the rebels seeking to overthrow the rule of President Bashar Assad.
A convoy of 30 cars delivered the nuns to the Syrian town of Jdeidet Yabous, which lies close to the Lebanese border.
About 150 female prisoners are to be released in exchange for the nuns' freedom, said the head of Lebanon's General Security agency, Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who oversaw the deal and spoke to Syrian television. The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar also reportedly was involved.
Ibrahim said the deal nearly collapsed at the last minute after rebels demanded more prisoners be released.
Syrian rebels, including members of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, seized the 13 nuns and their three helpers from the Mar Takla convent when fighters overran the Christian village of Maaloula, north of Damascus, in December. The nuns are believed to be mostly Syrian and Lebanese.
Plight of children: The Syrian civil war's effect on the health of children is far more insidious than has been widely understood, a leading children's advocacy group reported Sunday, with large numbers dying or at risk from chronic and preventable diseases. In a report timed to coincide with the fourth year of the conflict, Save the Children said that at least 1.2 million children have fled to neighboring countries, that 4.3 million in Syria need humanitarian assistance and that more than 10,000 have died in the violence.
Information from the New York Times was used in this report.