Rus­sia, Syr­ian op­po­si­tion agree to safe zone for aid

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - BASSEM MROUE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jim Heintz of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

BEIRUT — Rus­sia’s De­fense Min­istry said Satur­day that 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 while the Syr­ian army com­mand said it has ceased mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in sev­eral ar­eas near the capital.

The an­nounce­ments in Moscow and Da­m­as­cus came af­ter days of bom­bard­ment and airstrikes on the area that is known as east­ern Ghouta. Ac­tivists re­ported rel­a­tive calm in the af­ter­noon in the area de­spite some vi­o­la­tions.

The Rus­sian min­istry state­ment did not give 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 said the agree­ment was reached dur­ing talks in Cairo, with Egyp­tian me­di­a­tion.

The zone is one of four pro­posed in a plan ap­proved in May by Rus­sia and Iran, which sup­port Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad, and Turkey, which backs rebels fight­ing his forces. Un­der the Rus­sian plan, As­sad’s air force would halt flights over des­ig­nated ar­eas across the war-torn coun­try.

Vi­o­lence had been re­ported in the “de-es­ca­la­tion zones” since the deal was struck more than two months ago. Un­til early Satur­day, the east­ern Da­m­as­cus sub­urbs known as east­ern Ghouta have been sub­jected to shelling and airstrikes.

The Syr­ian com­mand said in a state­ment car­ried by state TV that the ces­sa­tion of op­er­a­tions be­gan at noon lo­cal time Satur­day. It gave no fur­ther de­tails.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights and Ghouta-based ac­tivist Anas al-Di­mashqi re­ported at least three airstrikes early Satur­day on the sub­urbs of Douma and Ein Tarma.

“The sit­u­a­tion is quiet now in Ghouta,” al-Di­mashqi said via text mes­sage, adding that it was not clear if the calm was the re­sult of the Rus­sian an­nounce­ment.

The Ob­ser­va­tory and al-Di­mashqi later re­ported some vi­o­la­tions in­clud­ing the shelling of the sub­urb of Harasta.

To the north­west of Da­m­as­cus, Syr­ian troops and mem­bers of Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah group pressed ahead in their of­fen­sive at bor­der ar­eas be­tween the two coun­tries, cap­tur­ing ter­ri­to­ries from Syr­ian in­sur­gents.

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.

Syr­ian Cen­tral Mil­i­tary Me­dia said the Syr­ian air force took part in the op­er­a­tions, adding that dozens of al-Qaida-linked mil­i­tants have been killed or wounded since the of­fen­sive early Fri­day.

Pro-Hezbol­lah ac­tivists said on so­cial me­dia that about 15 Le­banese fight­ers had been killed in two days of fight­ing. The Le­banese Broad­cast­ing Corp. gave the names of nine fight­ers whose funerals were to be held in Beirut on Satur­day.

The Le­banese army said the for­mer deputy mayor of Ar­sal was killed while on a me­di­a­tion mis­sion with al-Qaida-linked mil­i­tants in Syria. The army said in a state­ment that Ah­mad Fleeti was killed Satur­day near the bor­der town af­ter al-Qaidalinked mil­i­tants hit his ve­hi­cle with a mis­sile.

Hezbol­lah has fought in Syria’s civil war since 2013 back­ing As­sad’s forces.

In north­ern Syria, op­po­si­tion ac­tivists said the rebel-held prov­ince of Idlib has been calm af­ter two main mil­i­tant groups agreed to end days of fight­ing that killed scores.

The fight­ing be­tween the ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaida-linked Hay’at Tahrir al Sham — Ara­bic for Le­vant Lib­er­a­tion Com­mit­tee — broke out on Tues­day in sev­eral ar­eas and fo­cused on the Bab al-Hawa cross­ing at the bor­der with Turkey.

The Ob­ser­va­tory said Satur­day that calm has pre­vailed in Idlib since sun­set Fri­day. It added that four days of fight­ing left 92 dead, in­clud­ing 15 civil­ians.

Ahrar al-Sham and Hay’at Tahrir al Sham had is­sued state­ments say­ing a cease-fire agree­ment had been reached and that both sides will free de­tainees.

They said Bab al-Hawa will be run by a civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.