Moscow Announces New De-Escalation Zone in Northern Homs
Russia announced a new de-escalation zone north of the embattled city of Homs on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Moscow defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said a cease-fire covering 84 settlements populated by more than 147,000 people would take effect that same day.
The zone covers three rebel-held towns and dozens of villages north of Homs city, which came under full government control in May 2017.
According to the Associated Press, Konashenkov also said that Moscow would deploy military police in the area on Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the cease-fire had held for the first 10 hours but a number of violations were recorded later on Thursday. According to the United Kingdom-based monitoring group, pro-government forces launched artillery attacks on several towns in northern Homs as Syrian rebel groups targeted government-controlled parts of the province.
The de-escalation agreement in Homs mirrors that of a zone in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the AP reported, citing the SOHR. Attempts at a lasting cease-fire in the Eastern Ghouta region of the capital, however, have largely failed, with the government carrying out daily attacks on the Jobar and Ain Terma districts.
The Homs de-escalation zone is the third of four planned cease-fires reached under an agreement brokered by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara in May.
Hezbollah Captives Freed as Militants Cross Into Syria
Five Hezbollah fighters held captive by al-Qaida-linked militants were released on Thursday as part of a deal between the jihadi group and the Lebanese militia, the Associated Press reported.
The five who had been captured by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS) last year were welcomed in the border village of Qaa after being transported into Lebanon from a transfer point in the western Syrian province of Hama.
As part of the same agreement, a convoy of at least 113 buses carrying some 7,700 refugees and al-Qaida-linked militants crossed the Saan area in Homs province, into rebel-held territory in northwest Syria.
Thursday’s exchange is part of a deal struck this week between Hezbollah and JFS after two weeks of battles along the Lebanon-Syria frontier. The agreement grants thousands of refugees and remaining JFS fighters safe passage to Idlib, leaving control of a corner of the border to Hezbollah, the Lebanese army and the Syrian government.
Government Shells Eastern Ghouta Despite Cease-Fire
At least two people were killed by government shelling of the eastern suburbs of Damascus on Thursday, despite the area being designated a de-escalation zone, a war monitor reported.
The SOHR said a woman and a child were killed and several others were injured by the attack on the Ain Terma district.
The monitoring group says at least 25 civilians have been killed in the 12 days since a cease-fire went into effect in the Eastern Ghouta region.
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