'Army, rebels agree to ceasefire in Syria town'

Army to withdraw, insurgents to leave streets of small town near Lebanon border, opposition activists say.

January 18, 2012 12:26
1 minute read.
A Syrian tank outside Homs.

Syria tank Homs 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

AMMAN - Syrian troops fighting rebels in the town of Zabadani near Lebanon agreed on Tuesday to a ceasefire under which the army would withdraw and insurgents would leave the streets, a senior opposition leader in contact with residents said.

"Tank bombardments have stopped. Preachers are broadcasting the agreement from the minarets of Zabadani," Kamal al-Labwani told Reuters.

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"I think stiff resistance and defections among the attacking forces have forced the regime to negotiate. We will see if it will stick to the deal. The pullout is due to begin tomorrow," he added.

There was no comment from the Syrian authorities and official media had not mentioned the assault.

Zabadani, a town of 40,000, 30 km (19 miles) northwest of Damascus in the foothills of the mountains which separate Lebanon from Syria, has seen regular big demonstrations demanding the removal of President Bashar Assad.

Troops backed by tanks attacked the town on Friday, in the biggest military offensive since Arab monitors went into the country last month.

Labwani said the ceasefire was agreed by town leaders and deputy defense minister Assef Shawkat, Assad's brother in law.

One person had been killed and 50 injured in Zabadani during the attack said Labwani. About 30 pro-Assad soldiers had also died as had an unknown number of soldiers who had defected to the rebels, he added.

A statement by activists from Zabadani published on Facebook said the ceasefire was agreed after two days of negotiations.

"We are waiting their withdrawal tomorrow morning from our honourable land," the statement said.

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