Middle East

Syria war: Homs ceasefire deal announced

Abandoned Syrian tank in Rastan (file photo) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The ceasefire includes the Syrian town of Rastan (file photo)

A ceasefire between Syrian forces and rebels north of Homs has been agreed and will come into effect on Thursday, Russia's defence ministry says.

It would be the third such "de-escalation zone" put in place since July after talks between powers backing and opposing the Syrian government.

The others cover parts of south-western Syria and the outskirts of Damascus.

Syria's war has raged since 2011 but fighting has become more patchy amid a series of truce deals in recent months.

The conflict has left more 330,000 people dead and displaced millions more.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the latest ceasefire was agreed with the "moderate Syrian opposition" and covered an area encompassing more than 147,000 people.

He said Russia would set up two checkpoints and three observation posts along the truce lines on Friday.

Last week Russia, a key Syrian ally, deployed military police to monitor a "de-escalation zone" in Eastern Ghouta - an agricultural belt near the capital - and in the south-west.

However, it is unclear exactly where the ceasefire boundaries lie, and the extent of violations, though there has been an easing in the intensity of violence.

Plans for four such zones were announced by Russia, Turkey - which supports the rebels - and Syria's other main ally, Iran, at talks in Astana in May.

Rebel groups have not publicly signed up to the Astana agreement, which has the tacit support of the United States and the Syrian government.

The plan excludes militants of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the jihadist group Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham.

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