• Syria rebels, regime declare ceasefire


    BEIRUT: Syrian rebels in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh on Sunday (Monday in Manila) agreed a local ceasefire with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after nearly a year of fighting and bombardment, activists said.

    “After intense negotiation in recent days between the regime and the [rebel]Free Syrian Army through mediators from the neighborhood, the following agreement has been reached: ceasefire between the two sides,” a statement posted by the opposition local council said.

    The two sides also agreed “the withdrawal of Assad’s army from all of Barzeh, and the cleaning of the streets [of abandoned corp-ses], in preparation for the road to be opened” by the rebels, the statement said.

    “The Free Syrian Army will be the one manning traffic” through the district, which has been blocked off ever since the opposition took over the neighborhood, the state-ment added.

    Local activist Abu Ammar told Agence France-Presse via the Internet that although the agreed clauses have not yet been implemented, “the intensity of the fighting has been reduced greatly in the past three days.”

    The truce also envisages that residents who had fled the district will be able to return within two weeks, and that “services will be restored.”

    Much of Barzeh has been destroyed in the fighting and near-daily bombardment by the army since it became an all-out war zone in March last year.

    State news agency SANA had earlier reported that “200 members of the so-called Free Syrian Army and the [jihadist]Al-Nusra Front have handed themselves in” to the regime.

    Abu Ammar denied the report, and described it as “a tactic to put pressure on the opposition during the negotiations.”

    The agreement comes weeks after opposition fighters in Moadamiyet al-Sham, a be-sieged, rebel-held town south-west of Damascus agreed a similar truce with the army, allowing food to enter for the first time in months.

    Meanwhile, Jihadists killed at least 50 rival rebels Sunday in a new front in Syria’s brutal war, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing insurgents and medics.

    The rebels were killed in fighting, car bombings and also summary executions by forces loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

    ISIL, an al-Qaeda affiliate, moved into Syria in late spring last year amid the armed uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

    At least nine ISIL fighters were also killed on Sunday, the Britain-based Observatory said.

    Most of the non-ISIL fatalities were in the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib, where the fighting has been focused since Friday.

    Among the dead were “seven who were summarily executed by ISIL” in Harem in Idlib.

    Clashes also erupted in Raqa and Hama provinces on Sunday, in a sign the fighting was spreading beyond the northern provinces.

    Scores of fighters on both sides have been killed in the past three days, according to the Observatory.

    “The rebels have made significant gains [since Friday]in the west of Aleppo province, in the north of Idlib, and east of Maaret al-Numan [Idlib],” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

    The Observatory also said ISIL fighters were laying down their arms and withdrawing from some areas including Daret Izza, without giving further details.

    In Atareb, also in Aleppo province, rebels raised the green, white, black and red flag of the opposition, and brought down the flag flown by ISIL.

    The Islamic Front, the Syrian Revolutionaries Front and the nascent Army of Muja-hideen—rebel alliances—are all battling ISIL.

    “What’s happening is that the ranks of the revolution are being cleaned up,” said a member of the Islamic Front, a huge rebel alliance grouping thousands of fighters, speaking to Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.

    On Saturday, ISIL distributed an audio statement warning the rebels to stop pressuring the jihadists, or they would withdraw from the front lines in Aleppo city and let in Assad’s forces.

    ISIL also accused its rivals of waging a “media war” against it, and of “stabbing [it]in the back.”

    Protesters, meanwhile, took to the streets of Aleppo and Raqa for a third consecutive day chanting slogans against ISIL, activists said.

    Activists are calling for countrywide protests next Friday under the slogan: “Day of rage against al-Qaeda and Assad.”



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