Hundreds flee fighting near Syria's capital despite truce
Hundreds of civilians fled a mountainous region outside the Syrian capital yesterday, where government forces were battling several insurgent groups, including an al-Qaida-linked outfit excluded from a recent nationwide ceasefire.
The Syrian military said some 1,300 people fled the Barada Valley region since Saturday. The region has been the target of days of air strikes and shelling notwithstanding the truce, which was brokered by Russia and Turkey and appears to be holding in other parts of the country, despite some reports of fighting.
The truce went into effect early Friday, and the government and the opposition are expected to meet for talks in Kazakhstan later this month. Russia, a key military ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Turkey, a leading sponsor of the rebels, are acting as guarantors of the agreement, which excludes the al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front and the Islamic State group.
On Saturday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting efforts by Russia and Turkey to end the nearly six-year conflict in Syria and jump-start peace negotiations.
The military said those fleeing Barada Valley were relocated to safer areas and their names were registered by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the opposition's Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there were buses in the region ready to evacuate civilians, but could not confirm how many people had left.
He said the Barada Valley region is not part of the ceasefire because of the presence of Fatah al-Sham Front, formerly known as the Nusra Front.
The Barada Valley Media Center said Lebanese Hezbollah militants were firing on villages and towns in the water-rich region as Russian and government aircraft carried out raids for the 10th consecutive day on Saturday. The Lebanese militant group has sent thousands of fighters to Syria to bolster Assad's forces.