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Russia Says Agrees to Safe Zone Mechanism with Syrian Rebels

Russia Says Agrees to Safe Zone Mechanism with Syrian Rebels”

The Syrian army declared a ceasefire in the Eastern Ghouta countryside of the capital Damascus starting at noon Saturday, according to state news agency SANA.

The army did say, however, that it would "retaliate in a suitable manner" should the rebels violate the cease-fire agreement.

The Eastern Ghouta region is a major rebel stronghold near the capital, and it has been the frequent target of government military operations.

Meanwhile, the rebel group Jaish al-Islam, the main rebel force in Eastern Ghouta, said it agrees to the de-escalation deal in Eastern Ghouta.

Analysts warn it is unclear whether the deal can be enforced.

The Eastern Ghouta area is one of four proposed safe zones in Syria that came about after talks between Russia, Iran and Turkey earlier this year.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that calm has prevailed in Idlib since sunset Friday.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Saturday an agreement has been reached with the Syrian opposition on the boundaries for a de-escalation zone for the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus, after days of intense fighting and bombardment in the area.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said Hezbollah fighters and Syrian troops captured several strategic hills Saturday in areas between the Lebanese town of Arsal and the Syrian village of Fleeta.

"The documents fix borders of the de-escalation zone, locations and authorities of the forces observing the de-escalation, as well as routes for delivery of humanitarian aid and for free movement of the civilians", the ministry said.

However, delegates for rebel forces stormed out of the talks in protest.

Russian Federation said the agreement would include "routes to supply humanitarian aid to the population and for free movement of residents", and that humanitarian convoys would be sent within the next few days.

"There will be forces of delimitation between us and the regime in the zone, and it is considered part of the political settlement or preparation for it", the Jaysh al-Islam leader added, calling the agreement "the best for the Syrian situation".

Syria's war has claimed more than 300,000 lives since it erupted in 2011, with millions more displaced.



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