Calm near Syrian capital as fighting freezes

Daraya was one of the first to erupt in protests in 2011, and was one of the first areas to be placed under crippling government siege

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Two key opposition-controlled areas near Syria’s capital were relatively calm on Tuesday after appeals by Russia for a temporary freeze in fighting there, a monitor and an activist told AFP.

Fierce fighting had been rocking the besieged opposition-held town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, and in Eastern Ghouta, a large rebel bastion east of the capital.

But clashes subsided in both by Tuesday morning, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

“It has been quiet in both areas since dawn,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Daraya-based activist Shadi Matar confirmed that the shelling and clashes that had shaken his hometown over the past two weeks had stopped.

“There was fighting around midnight but it stopped around 1:00 am on Tuesday and it’s been calm since then,” he told AFP.

But he said fellow residents were skeptical that the quiet would hold.

“People don’t believe (in these truces) like they did before. Their morale is low and they don’t trust anyone,” he told AFP.

Late Monday, Russia called for a 72-hour freeze on fighting – or “regime of silence” – in Eastern Ghouta and Daraya starting on Tuesday.

Both areas are supposed to be included in a broader ceasefire brokered by the US and Russia that came into place on February 27 but has since faltered.

Daraya was one of the first towns to erupt in anti-regime protests in 2011, and was one of the first areas to be placed under crippling government siege in late 2012.

The US and Russia have both pushed for local truces as a way to bolster the collapsing three-month ceasefire.

More than 270,000 people have been killed since Syria’s conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government protests.