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article imageCeasefire arranged in rebel held suburb of Damascus

By Ken Hanly     Jan 27, 2014 in Politics
Damascus - In another development that will help improve the humanitarian situation in the Syrian civil war, a ceasefire has been arranged between government forces and rebels in an area of Damascus held by rebels.
This is the first time a ceasefire agreement has been reached that allowed rebels to both keep their weapons and control of the territory in return for a cessation of fighting. The ceasefire seemed to be taking effect in the Barzeh district of north Damascus. The district which once had a population of 50,000 has been besieged for nine months or more. The agreement was reached through mediation by members of the area between the FSA and the regime Abu Hamzeh, a Free Syrian Army leader said: “We made a reconciliation agreement to stop the rivers of blood that have flowed in Barzeh.” The Free Syrian Army(FSA) is the western-backed umbrella group of Syrian rebel army units. Hamzeh estimated that about 250 people including women and children had been killed in the siege.
Most buildings in the suburb have been badly damaged by bombs or artillery shells. Hundreds of refugees returned yesterday to see the massive damage and find that their homes in many cases were looted. A senior leader of the FSA said that under the provisions of the agreement: “I am expecting the government to release about 350 prisoners from Barzeh, but all we have got so far is three dead bodies.” He also complained that the government was not allowing through trucks containing food as promised, although he admitted that government troops had pulled back from some places. Municipal employees were also working on pylons that would allow electricity to be reconnected. As part of the agreement residents who fled will be allowed to return and services will be restored.
The agreement may provide an important precedent and model. There are a number of rebel-held areas in Damascus blockaded and bombarded by the Syrian armed forces. In most of the areas many civilians have already left the areas. An FSA leader al-Kal said:
“It was the government that asked for an agreement, not us, and we keep our weapons.” The Barzeh area is surrounded by neighborhoods where life goes on as normal.
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