Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has said that a six-month truce has been agreed between the rebel-held town of Zabadani and two Shia towns in the northwest.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah told the movement’s Al-Manar television on Friday that the deal was reached under the auspices of the UN with mediation from Damascus’ ally, Iran.
Nasrallah said the deal will entail the “evacuation of armed and wounded men from Zabadani to Idlib province in exchange for the evacuation of 10,000 civilians from the villages of Fuaa and Kafraya to zones controlled by the regime”.
“There will be no more fighters in Zabadani,” Nasrallah said, indicating that the Syrian army could enter the remaining rebel-held areas and take control.
He said that civilians living in and around Zabadani who did not want to stay could also go to Idlib safely.
On Thursday, UN spokeswoman Jessy Chahine told the AFP news agency there had been “positive developments in the talks, which were facilitated by the UN”, but added that it was up to the parties themselves to say if there was a deal to announce.
In July, pro-government forces launched an offensive to try to recapture Zabadani.This prompted a Sunni rebel alliance to besiege the Idlib province villages of Fuaa and Kafraya, whose residents are Shia.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the truce was reached between rebel fighters, including Ahrar al-Sham, and pro-regime forces and their Hezbollah allies.
Short truces agreed previously between the warring parties have often been broken.
A Syrian source close to the talks told AFP on Thursday that the accord would see the evacuation of some 10,000 civilians from besieged Fuaa and Kafraya on Saturday and Sunday.
They will be driven out in Red Cross vehicles to regime-controlled areas.
In exchange, about 500 rebel fighters will withdraw from Zabadani and head for Idlib province. AL JAZEERA