Truce begins in another Syria ‘safe zone’

Russia’s defence ministry has announced a ceasefire for a third safe zone in war-torn Syria, paving the way for the delivery of sorely needed humanitarian relief to rebel-held areas north of the city of Homs.


In central Syria meanwhile a swap between Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group and Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate ended with more than 7000 fighters and civilians crossing into rebel-held parts of northern Syria in return for the release of five Lebanese militants who arrived in government-held parts of the country.

Military spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Russia would deploy military police in the area on Friday and set up two checkpoints and three observation points around its borders.

It is the third of four planned ceasefires reached in recent months under an agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in May that aims to “de-escalate” the violent and prolonged Syrian civil war.

Russia and Iran are providing military support to President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey sponsors some of the opposition forces arrayed against him.

Pro-government forces have besieged the enclave north of Homs for years, but have been unable to capture it from the opposition even as it recovered territory elsewhere.

Shelling and air strikes against the enclave have eased since the May agreement was signed, said Khaled. Residents will now be expecting further relief.

The agreement, according to notes leaked by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, follows the model of another ceasefire zone for the suburbs of Damascus.

Both truces were negotiated in Cairo between Russia and what the ministry of defence described as the “moderate opposition”.

The agreement also prescribes the release of political prisoners, long a demand of the opposition.

The government’s air force has cut back its attacks on the four “de-escalation zones” designated in the May agreement.