Middle East

Syrian army declares cessation of operations east of Damascus

The Syrian military has announced the cessation of hostilities between foreign-sponsored terrorist groups and government forces in parts of Eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus, after Russia reached an agreement with the militants on the boundaries for a de-escalation zone there.

The General Command of the Syrian Army and Armed Forces said in a statement carried by state TV that all combat operations will stop as of Saturday 12 p.m. local time (0900 GMT), but warned that army forces will retaliate against any attack by militants.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s Defense Ministry stated that an accord had been struck with anti-Damascus extremist groups on the boundaries for a de-escalation zone for Eastern Ghouta.

The ministry statement did not provide further details, but said the agreement includes the zone’s borders as well as routes for delivery of humanitarian aid and free movement of civilians.

It added that the agreement was reached during talks in Cairo, with Egyptian mediation.

Russia, with backing from Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran, brokered the deal for establishing de-escalation zones in mainly militant-held areas of Syria during ceasefire talks in the Kazakh capital city of Astana in May.

The plan, which came into effect at midnight on May 5, calls for the cessation of hostilities between militant groups and Syrian government forces.

It covers the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, northeastern areas of the western coastal province of Latakia, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province.

It also applies to the Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in Homs province, Eastern Ghouta district in the northern Damascus countryside as well as the militant-controlled southern part of the country along the border with Jordan.

Militant groups agree to end days of bloody fighting in Idlib

Meanwhile, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that calm has prevailed across the militant-held northwestern province of Idlib since sunset Friday after Ahrar al-Sham terrorists and al-Qaeda-linked Tahrir al-Sham Salafists concluded an agreement.

The Britain-based group added that four days of fighting between the two militant groups left 92 people dead, including 15 civilians.

Syria has been fighting different foreign-sponsored militant and terrorist groups since March 2011. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated last August that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the crisis until then.

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