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Calm in rebel suburb near Damascus after government agrees to truce

A partial calm prevailed in a besieged rebel-held area near the Syrian capital, Damascus, a day after the UN announced that the government agreed to a ceasefire there, a monitoring group reported on Wednesday.

In recent weeks, the region of Eastern Ghouta on the eastern outskirts of Damascus has seen intense attacks by forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said that calm in the area had been shattered by two rounds of regime shelling attacks on Wednesday.

However, no casualties were reported.

An official from Faylaq al-Rahman, the main rebel group in the area, said there was still regime shelling.

“But this is far lower than it was before,’’ spokesman Wael Olwan told newsmen.

The special UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, on Tuesday said that the Syrian government had agreed to a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta.

However, rebels groups in the area denied any such agreement had been reached.

According to de Mistura, the truce in Eastern Ghouta, the rebels’ last stronghold near Damascus, was proposed by Russia, a key military backer of al-Assad.

“Now we need to see whether this takes place, but it’s not coincidental that this has actually been proposed and agreed upon just on the day of the beginning of this session,” de Mistura said.

The special UN envoy was referring to a new round of UN-brokered peace talks between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition in Geneva.

According to the Observatory, no fewer than 660 people have been killed and injured by government shelling and airstrikes on Eastern Ghouta over the last two weeks.

Eastern Ghouta has been under siege by government forces for the past four years.


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