BEIRUT: The Syrian military announced on Saturday the cessation of all combat operations in the southern city of Daraa for 48 hours in support of national reconciliation after days of violence in the area where the country’s crisis began six years ago.
The announcement comes days after the contested city witnessed some of the worst fighting in months amid fears by opposition activists that the government will try to take Daraa, where the country’s civil war began in 2011.
In a statement, the army’s General Command said that all combat operations will stop as of Saturday 12pm (0900 GMT) for 48 hours. A “de-escalation agreement” brokered by Iran, Russia and Turkey in May has not brought any relief to the city, activists said. The agreement covers four zones in Syria where the rebels are fighting pro-government forces.
The Syrian government refers to national reconciliation when a deal is reached with local gunmen to give up fighting against the state in return for an amnesty. Saturday’s announcement came amid talks that are underway in neighbouring Jordan to calm the situation in southern Syria.
A western diplomat said in Beirut this week that the US, Russia and Jordan were holding closed door-meetings in Amman to halt the fighting between rebels and the government in southern Syria.
The three states are debating the boundaries of a ceasefire line between the government and rebels in what is hoped to be a comprehensive agreement that would delineate the control of border crossings with Jordan, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.
In the northern city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of Daesh, a US-backed Syrian force entered new neighbourhoods east and west of the city adding that they were able to free dozens of civilians who were trapped in the fighting.
Daesh has been preventing civilians from leaving Raqqa in an apparent attempt to use them as human shields.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been launched an offensive to capture Raqqa from the extremists on June 6, under the cover of air strikes by the US-led coalition. SDF fighters captured at least three neighbourhood from Daesh since then.
The SDF said in a statement posted on social media on Saturday that its fighters have now entered the western neighbourhoods of Bareed and Hiteen and Qadissiya as well as the eastern neighbourhood of Bayatra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks Syria’s war, says air strikes by the US-led coalition since June 6 have killed 117 civilians and wounded hundreds.