Children sitting with soldiers on an Army vehicle in Arsal flash victory signs. (The Daily Star/Nidal al-Solh)
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Negotiations to free 19 Lebanese Army soldiers and 17 Internal Security Forces personnel captured by Syrian rebels in the border town of Arsal have come to a standstill, said the Syrian go-between in contact with the militants.Clashes erupted between rebel militants from Syria, who had fled to the outskirts of Arsal following defeats in Qalamoun, and the Army Aug. 2, after the arrest of Imad Jomaa, the rebel commander of the Fajr al-Islam brigade.The militants in Arsal fought in the Syrian towns of Qusair, al-Nabi and Yabroud, he said, and almost all have families among the refugee population in Arsal.In fact, before Jomaa was arrested in the early hours of Aug. 2, he came into the town "as a civilian" to spend the night with his wife. That morning he was on his way to the Syrian village of Jibbi, in Qalamoun, where Qusair claims fighting was ongoing between rebels and the Syrian regime. According to details relayed to Qusair by Jomaa's driver, known as "Firas," a Humvee belonging to the Army had chased him and captured the battalion leader alone. Qusair became acquainted with the militants during the early days of the Syrian war.The militants withdrew from Arsal after five days of clashes with the Army.
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