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Syria rivals agree truce in Damascus district

Syrian rebels and regime troops fighting in the northern district of Barzeh have come to an agreement

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A truce between Syrian rebels and regime troops fighting in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh has been agreed on Sunday, activists said.

“After intense negotiation in recent days between the regime and the (rebel) Free Syrian Army through mediators from the neighborhood, the following agreement has been reached: ceasefire between the two sides,” a statement posted by the opposition local council said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The truce comes after nearly a year of fighting and bombardment in the area and both sides also agreed on “the withdrawal of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s army from all of Barzeh, and the cleaning of the streets (of abandoned corpses), in preparation for the road to be opened” by the rebels, the statement said.

“The Free Syrian Army will be the one manning traffic” through the district, which has been blocked off ever since the opposition took over the neighborhood, the statement added.

Much of Barzeh has been destroyed in the fighting and near-daily bombardment by the army since it became an all-out war zone in March last year.

An activist told AFP that although the agreed clauses have not yet been implemented, “the intensity of the fighting has been reduced greatly in the past three days.”

A clause within the truce agreement also envisages that residents who had fled the district will be able to return within two weeks, and that “services will be restored.”

State news agency SANA had earlier reported that “200 members of the so-called Free Syrian Army and the (jihadist) al-Nusra Front have handed themselves in” to the regime.

Abu Ammar denied the report, and described it as “a tactic to put pressure on the opposition during the negotiations.”

The news comes as al-Qaeda-linked fighters ceded ground near the Turkish border to rival Islamist rebels on Sunday, in what seemed to be a tactical withdrawal to end clashes between Syrian and foreign-led opponents of Assad.