AMMAN – Warring parties have agreed to extend ceasefires in two Shi’ite Muslim towns in northwestern Syria and another settlement near the Lebanese border until a wider deal is reached, the al-Manar TV station controlled by Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.
Pro-government militia backed by Shi’ite Hezbollah have been defending the two towns – al-Foua and Kefraya – against insurgent attacks. The Syrian army and Hezbollah are trying to capture the other border town, Zabadani, from rebels. Fighters on all sides have been trying to reach a deal to evacuate civilians and swap prisoners.
There have been three local ceasefire agreed in those areas since August, the first two of which collapsed. The latest truce followed a renewed offensive by insurgents since Friday that made headway towards capturing the two Shi’ite villages. Rebel sources say they are negotiating a deal with third parties in touch with Iranian and Hezbollah officials that would allow safe passage for the besieged insurgents inside the centre of Zabadani who have been targeted in a weeks-long offensive.
It also would allow evacuation of thousands of Syrian civilians holed up in the two Shi’ite villages that represent the two last pockets of Syrian government influence in the northwestern province of Idlib. They are being defended by irregular militia rather than the army.