A ceasefire continues till Sunday between Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters and Syrian rebels in the border town of Zabadani in southern Syria as well as in two Shia Kafria and Fouaa towns in the outskirts of northwestern Idlib province.
The truce includes two Shia towns in the northwestern province of Idlib, on which the opposition launched heavy shellings and artillery bombardment as a revenge for the regime attack on Zabadani.
— Hala Jaber (@HalaJaber) August 13, 2015
More than 1,400 shellings were conducted by the opposition on the two towns until the truce was held, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The two-day truce started on Wednesday after six weeks of heavy fighting in Zabadani by Hezbollah militias and Syrian regime forces supported by heavy regime aerial bombardment against opposition groups including Ahrar al Sham, which controls parts of Zabadani. Then it was extended for one more day, which is Friday. On Friday the two parties agreed to continue the ceasefire for two more days till Sunday.
Heavy artillery and aerial bombardment were used by the joined forces to recapture the city of Zabadani, north-west of the Syrian capital near the Lebanese border.
The statement was released after Ahrar al Sham, a Syrian opposition group which was negotiating with international sides to secure “a safe exit” for its fighters after enduring weeks of heavy bombardment.
The truce was preceded by negotiations in Istanbul, Turkey by Ahrar al Sham and Iranian mediators negotiating on behalf of Syrian regime, but the talks ended last week without any positive results due to disagreement on evacuation of rebels and civilians from Zabadani .
Battle for Zabadani
The city of Zabadani, over which Assad forces have long sought to gain control, is located near the Beirut-Damascus highway that connects both countries. Capturing it would be a major boost for Assad’s withering government.
Zabadani, 20 kilometres north of Syria’s capital Damascus, was captured by rebels in early 2012 and was once a bastion for the rebels. It has been besieged for more than one year by regime forces.
Regime forces backed by Hezbollah militias began a major campaign to take back the region in late 2013. In April 2014 the campaign gained momentum and regime forces were able to capture the ancient Christian town of Maalula.
On June 6, Syrian state media announced the start of an operation to retake the town by the Syrian army.
Capturing it would be a major boost for Assad’s withering government.
Zabadani, once a popular resort city, was part of a major supply route for weapons that were sent from Syria to Hezbollah militants before the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011.
In recent months, the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia has increased its assaults on opposition outposts along the Qalamoun mountains region sprawling along the Lebanese-Syrian border in an effort to force opposition fighters to take a deal that would make them leave Zabadani without their weapons, Asharq al Awsat newspaper has reported.
Hezbollah is a prominent ally of the Syrian regime and has sent fighters to support regime forces against the uprising that began in March 2011.
The war in Syria started in 2011 in the form of anti-government demonstrations, but descended into a civil war between five main factions - the regime, the opposition, Al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front, ISIS, and the Kurdish YPG militia.
Over four years of fighting has left over 230,000 Syrians dead, according to UN estimates.
More than 6.7 million are displaced internally while at least 5 million have fled the country to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.