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BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian government and rebel groups swapped dozens of women prisoners and hostages, some of them with their children, in Hama province on Tuesday evening, a monitor said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based war monitoring group, said government representatives and rebel officials exchanged 112 women in the rebel-held Qalaat al-Madiq town in rural Hama. Many had been detained for years.

About half were released from government prisons and then taken to opposition-held areas, the Observatory said.

In return, the others were set free by various rebel groups and shuttled to government-controlled areas along the coast.

Such exchanges were rare in the nearly six-year-old war, but had been coursing more often in recent months, the Observatory said.

The war pits President Bashar al-Assad's government, backed by Russia and Iran, against an array of mostly Sunni rebel groups, including some backed by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, made more than half of Syrian homeless and created the world's worst refugee crisis.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Reuters