Hezbollah agrees to 6-month truce in three Syria towns
BEIRUT - Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, confirmed Friday a six-month truce had been agreed for the rebel-held town of Zabadani and two Shiite towns in the northwest.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah told the movement's Al-Manar television the deal was reached under the auspices of the United Nations with mediation from Damascus ally Iran.
It will entail the "evacuation of armed and wounded men from Zabadani (between Damascus and the Lebanese border) to Idlib province (in the north) in exchange for the evacuation of 10,000 civilians from the villages of Fuaa and Kafraya to zones controlled by the regime," he said.
"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 said 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 rebel alliance, including Sunni Muslim extremists of Al-Qaeda, to besiege the Idlib province villages of Fuaa and Kafraya whose residents are Shiites.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the truce was reached between rebel fighters, including Islamist group 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 said Thursday 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, some 500 rebels will withdraw from Zabadani and head for Idlib province.