Syria rebels, regime agree truce in Damascus district: NGO

Damaged buildings and debris in Duma, Damascus on Jan 5, 2014. Syrian rebels in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh on Sunday, Dec 5, 2014, agreed to a local ceasefire with President Bashar al-Assad's regime after nearly a year of fighting and b
Damaged buildings and debris in Duma, Damascus on Jan 5, 2014. Syrian rebels in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh on Sunday, Dec 5, 2014, agreed to a local ceasefire with President Bashar al-Assad's regime after nearly a year of fighting and bombardment, activists said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT (AFP) - Syrian rebels in the northern Damascus district of Barzeh on Sunday, Dec 5, 2014, agreed to a local ceasefire with President Bashar al-Assad's regime after nearly a year of fighting and bombardment, activists said.

"After intense negotiation in recent days between the regime and the (rebel) Free Syrian Army through mediators from the neighbourhood, the following agreement has been reached: ceasefire between the two sides," a statement posted by the opposition local council said.

The two sides also agreed to "the withdrawal of Assad's army from all of Barzeh, and the cleaning of the streets (of abandoned corpses), in preparation for the road to be opened" by the rebels, the statement said.

"The Free Syrian Army will be the one manning traffic" through the district, which has been blocked off ever since the opposition took over the neighbourhood, the statement added.

Local activist Abu Ammar told Agence France-Presse via the Internet that although the agreed clauses have not yet been implemented, "the intensity of the fighting has been reduced greatly in the past three days."

The truce also envisages that residents who had fled the district will be able to return within two weeks, and that "services will be restored". Much of Barzeh has been destroyed in the fighting and near-daily bombardment by the army since it became an all-out war zone in March 2013.

State news agency Sana had earlier reported that "200 members of the so-called Free Syrian Army and the (jihadist) Al-Nusra Front have handed themselves in" to the regime.

Mr Abu Ammar denied the report, and described it as "a tactic to put pressure on the opposition during the negotiations". The agreement comes weeks after opposition fighters in Moadamiyet al-Sham, a besieged, rebel-held town south-west of Damascus agreed a similar truce with the army, allowing food to enter for the first time in months.