Previous cease-fires failed to hold in the towns, where Sunnis and Shiite residents are besieged. But a realization that both sides benefit is generating hope this one, to be overseen by the UN, will succeed.
Ahmad Mughassil, a Saudi member of Hezbollah, was reportedly detained in Beirut and handed over to authorities in Saudi Arabia, but details remain fuzzy. A US court indictment named him as the architect of the 1996 Khobar Towers attack.
Syria and its ally Iran are negotiating with rebels over a population swap: Sunnis would leave a town sought for an evolving Assad regime enclave in return for the transfer of besieged Shiite communities.
The US and Turkey have designated a zone in northern Syria for flushing out Islamic State. Jordan is also considering a similar zone in southern Syria, as President Bashar al-Assad is forced to pull back his forces.