Local ceasefires in key Syrian towns collapse

2015-08-29 10:42

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Beirut - Syrian government forces and rebels exchanged artillery fire on Saturday as ceasefires around three key besieged towns collapsed despite an agreed one-day extension, activists said.

Regime forces shelled the town of Zabadani, near the Lebanese border, while rebel fighters targeted regime positions outside the city, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

In north-western Syria, Sunni Islamist rebels fired rockets on the besieged Shi'ite villages of Fouaa and Kafraya.

The villages are the last to be held by the government in Idlib province, most of which is now controlled by advancing rebels dominated by al-Qaeda and hardline Islamist forces.

Fears for the fate of the villagers appear to have persuaded Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, which provide key support to the embattled Syrian government, to slow their offensive against rebel-held Zabadani.

The town is one of the rebels' last strongholds near the Lebanese border, situated about 12km from the Jdeida border crossing on the Damascus-Beirut highway.

Rami Abdel-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told dpa that negotiations were focussing on the withdrawal of rebels from Zabadani, in exchange for the evacuation of civilians from the two north-western villages.

Other demands made by the rebels include the release of prisoners held by government forces.

A previous ceasefire mediated by Iran and Turkey in the three areas failed earlier this month before an agreement on their fate could be reached.

Al-Zabdani is one of the rebels' last strongholds near Syria's border with Lebanon.

Read more on:    syria  |  syria coflict

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