Iraq News

Warring sides reach truce south of Damascus

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


A Syrian regime tank rolls along a street south of Damascus. [Photo courtesy of Bahaa al-Sahli]

After years of battling the Syrian regime, opposition fighters in the southern towns of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahm on Sunday (April 29th) reached a permanent ceasefire agreement with regime forces.

Another deal has been reached for the evacuation of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp where "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters have been holed up south of Damascus, state media reported Sunday.

The transfer of "terrorist groups" to opposition-held areas of north-western Syria would begin on Monday, said the official SANA news agency, which did not name ISIS extremists.

The committee tasked with reaching a reconciliation agreement between opposition factions in the towns of Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahm on Sunday morning announced a permanent ceasefire agreement, sponsored by Russia, local activist Bahaa al-Sahli told Diyaruna.

The basic terms of the agreement are similar to those of other agreements that heralded the departure of opposition fighters from the region, he said.

"Under these terms, opposition fighters and civilians who wish to leave will be evacuated to northern Syria," he said.

Al-Sahli said he has learned from reliable sources that opposition fighters will head to three areas: Jarablus, for Jaish al-Islam; Daraa, for Ababil Horan Brigade; and Idlib, for remaining groups, including extremist alliance Tahrir al-Sham.

The evacuations are expected to be completed by Tuesday at the latest, he said, in conjunction with the entry of the Syrian regime's army into the three towns.

Terms of agreement

"Negotiators representing the three towns insisted on being given guarantees that pro-regime militias would not enter the towns, as that could lead to sectarian reprisals" against the local populations, al-Sahli said.

They also asked that a six-month grace period be granted to those who have failed to serve their compulsory military service in the Syrian army, he said.

The door has been opened to voluntary enlistment in the Syrian army for those who wish to join after they reconcile their security status, he added.

Al-Sahli said this agreement comes after an attempt by ISIS to advance towards the three towns over the past few days.

The extremist group succeeded in seizing control of a number of strategic points, he said, particularly on the outskirts of Yalda, adjacent to Yarmouk camp.

The group also seized the Japanese hospital and al-Harisa areas.

An agreement had been reached earlier on the evacuation of wounded opposition fighters to the north under escort by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Any remaining battles south of Damascus "will be fought strictly between ISIS and Jaish al-Ababil on one side and the regime and Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian militias on the other," al-Sahli said.

This will play out in an area of no more than 10 square kilometres, mostly in the Yarmouk camp and the area adjacent to it, he added.

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