Middle East

Syria war: Eastern Ghouta rebels announce ceasefire

An injured Syrian child is bandaged after air strikes in the rebel-held town of Zamalka, Eastern Ghouta, Syria. Photo: one of the few remaining rebel-held pockets in Eastern Ghouta, Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Rebels say they want talks with Russia's military to guarantee the safety of civilians

One of the remaining Syrian rebel groups in the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, has announced a ceasefire.

The Faylaq al-Rahman group said the UN-brokered truce was to begin in the south of the enclave at 22:00 GMT.

It said the move would allow talks with the Russian military, Syria's ally, on guarantees for the safety of civilians.

Rebels in another part of the area reached a similar deal earlier. Syrian troops have taken 70% of the enclave.

In recent weeks, they have cut the Eastern Ghouta into three separate pockets.

What did Faylaq al-Rahman say?

Spokesman Wael Alwan said late on Thursday that a ceasefire had been agreed "in order to negotiate with the Russian side about finding a solution to guarantee the safety of civilians".

The truce deal was reached "through the auspices of the United Nations", said the group, which controls the southern pocket around Arbin and Zamalka.

There has been no comment from either Russia's military, the Syrian government or the UN.

It was not immediately known whether the truce was actually in force after 22:00 GMT on Thursday.

What about the earlier ceasefire deal?

It was offered by the Syrian army to Ahrar al-Sham rebels, who until recently controlled the key town of Harasta in the north-west.

The rebels agreed to lay down their weapons and leave Harasta.

Buses carrying 1,480 people, including 600 Ahrar al-Sham rebels, drove out of the town earlier on Thursday, en route to the rebel-held northern province of Idlib.

A military source said hundreds more were expected to follow on Friday.

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Media captionEastern Ghouta: A mother's diary of life under siege

That evacuation deal was the first agreed since the offensive on the Eastern Ghouta was stepped up a month ago.

A monitoring group says the air and ground assault has killed 1,500 civilians, injured 5,300 others, and forced 82,000 to flee in recent days.

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