Cease-fire begins in Zabadani, regime kills 14 in Aleppo
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULSep 21, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Sep 21, 2015 12:00 am
A ceasefire went into effect on Sunday between Syrian pro-government forces and rebels in three battleground districts, a local official and a monitoring group said. The truce covers the two remaining villages in Idlib province in the northwest still in government hands and the rebels' last stronghold near the Lebanese border, the town of Zabadani. "There is calm in Fuaa, Kafraya and Zabadani. There is no shelling and there have been no violations of the ceasefire since noon," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He said the agreement "did not specify an end for the ceasefire" and that the rival sides would continue negotiations for a broader truce. A member of Zabadani town council, which has been involved in the talks, confirmed that negotiators had set no end date.
Pro-government forces launched an offensive to try to recapture Zabadani in July, prompting a rebel alliance, including militants of al-Qaida, to besiege the Idlib province villages of Fuaa and Kafraya, whose residents are Shiites. A resident of the town of Madaya, adjacent to Zabadani, told AFP the situation was "completely calm." The ceasefire comes after the rebels launched one of their fiercest attacks on Fuaa and Kafraya so far.
The assault began on Friday with at least nine car bombs against the outskirts of the two villages, seven of them detonated by suicide bombers. At least 66 rebels, 40 pro-government militiamen and seven civilians have been killed in the fighting, according to the Observatory. Sunday's planned ceasefire marks the third attempt to agree a truce for the three areas. Two rounds of negotiations last month failed to produce agreement. Stumbling blocks have included the withdrawal of all rebel fighters from Zabadani, safe passage for civilians seeking to leave Fuaa and Kafraya, and food and medical aid for those wishing to stay.
Fighting over the border town, Zabadani, has raged since July after Hezbollah fighters joined the government forces to repel the rebels. The rebels, who once controlled Zabadani, retaliated by attacking the villages of Foua and Kfarya. Control of Zabadani is important for pro-government forces, as it lies near the road between Damascus and Lebanon. Earlier talks, mediated by Iran and Turkey, collapsed over evacuation and safe passages for rebels and civilians from the areas.
Meanwhile, at least 14 civilians, including seven children, were killed Sunday when rebels in Syria shelled a government-controlled neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo, the government and an activist group said.