BEIRUT: A Russian-brokered ceasefire came into force on Wednesday in Daraa province, the cradle of Syria’s uprising where government forces have been battling holdout rebels, a war monitor and state media said.

The southern province of Daraa, held for years by opposition forces, was returned to government control in 2018 under a previous Moscow-backed ceasefire that had allowed rebels to stay in some areas.

But since late July armed groups have exchanged artillery fire with government forces and the regime has imposed a crippling siege on Daraa city’s southern district of Daraa al-Balad.

On Wednesday, the warring parties appeared to reach a new truce, with Russia deploying military police in Daraa al-Balad after weeks of mediating talks, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The deployment came after dozens of rebels were bussed from the district to opposition-held territory in Syria’s north last week before intense fighting resumed at the weekend, hampering ceasefire efforts.

“Implementation has started of the latest ceasefire agreement with the deployment of Russian military police inside Daraa al-Balad,” said Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman.

Under the terms of the deal, the Syrian government would erect three checkpoints inside Daraa al-Balad, having left the area for years under the control of former rebel fighters, said the Observatory.

Opposition fighters that choose to remain in Daraa-al-Balad would have to surrender their firearms, the Observatory added, saying those who reject a deal will be evacuated.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2021

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