Families of the kidnapped soldiers protest in front of the Grand Serail during a Cabinet session in Beirut, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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The Cabinet gave the Lebanese Army a free hand to launch a military operation to free the captured soldiers Thursday, rejecting demands by jihadist groups to swap the hostages with Islamist detainees held in Roumieh prison.Joreige said the Cabinet had given the Army and security forces political cover for launching any military operation to free the captives.The Cabinet session was convened to formulate a plan to secure the release of 23 soldiers and policemen still held hostage by militants from ISIS and Syria's Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, following five days of fierce fighting between the Army and the militants in the northeastern town of Arsal last month.The 24-member Cabinet also agreed to continue needed contacts with countries that could have some leverage to release the soldiers.The Cabinet tasked a crisis committee, headed by Salam, to follow up on the hostage crisis, and implement the Cabinet's decisions.
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