A general view of the northeastern border town of Arsal, Thursday, March 20, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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The hour that Zahra Msheik was allowed to see her husband somewhere within the rocky terrain of the Qalamoun Mountains transpired in five minutes.On the way back, transient feelings of joy gave way to a familiar sense of hopelessness as yet another set of demands were delivered by the Nusra Front, signaling to the families another series of negotiations, that so far have been characterized by nonstarters and the odd glimmer of potential. The families fear the recent visit may be their last, as there appears to be no end in sight to the hostage dilemma and negotiations with ISIS – which holds nine servicemen – have come to a complete halt.Talleh told the families the Nusra Front would free three hostages if the government releases five female prisoners currently detained in Lebanese prisons. The visit, and subsequent conference with Talleh, enraged the families, Zahra said.Families like that of Hussein Youssef, who's son Mohammad is being held by ISIS, have had no word from their captors. Another delegation of families servicemen held by ISIS headed to the outskirts of Arsal last Friday to talk with prominent figures in the town with the hope of receiving a similar invitation.
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