Army of Islam Rejects Regime Reports of Reconciliation Deal in Douma

Spokesman for key rebel group responds to claims of huge prisoner swap, describing reports of purported settlement as 'baseless and unfounded'

A large prisoner exchange operation is expected to take place with the Army of Islam (Jayish al-Islam) in the eastern Damascus suburbs before the Eid al-Fitr celebrations (marking the end of Ramadan), Syrian media outlets announced.

According to the reports, the exchange is expected to include 4,000 prisoners from each side.

Regime media outlets also said that a reconciliation deal will soon be reached regarding Douma city after officials met with the Army of Islam's representatives and public figures from the city. The media outlets refrained from providing details on the conditions of the reconciliation or the expected fate of the opposition fighters present in the city.

In a telephone conversation with Zaman al-Wasl, an official from the Ministry of Reconciliation pointed out that the meeting last Friday was one of several which had taken place between the two parties.

The official said the meeting paved the way for a possible reconciliation between the Syrian regime and the Army of Islam, adding that the two parties are still communicating and that negotiations are ongoing.

However, the Army of Islam has denied the report. Speaking to Zaman al-Wasl, Hamza Bayrkadar, a spokesman for the Army of Islam headquarters in the Eastern Ghouta, rejected claims about the reconciliation and described the reports as “baseless and unfounded.”

Regarding the negotiations to exchange prisoners and detainees, Bayrkadar said: “Previously we opened the lines of negotiation to ensure the release of prisoners and detainees from the regime’s prisons, but [President Bashar] al-Assad’s criminals and intelligence branches rejected negotiating these files and negotiating at all.”

He added: “Recently, they [the regime] have focused on the negotiating to release the Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters held as prisoners, disregarding [Assad’s] community and his officers’ families’ issues without any concern or desire to negotiate to obtain their release.”

This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

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