A 48-hour ceasefire has been agreed between Syrian insurgents, the army and the Lebanese Hezbollah group in the rebel-held town of Zabadani and two Shi\’ite villages in Idlib province, sources close to negotiations on both sides said on Wednesday.
The ceasefire is due to start on Wednesday at 6 a.m local time (11.00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday), three sources said. Negotiations between the rival sides will continue on other subjects.
Syrian insurgent group Ahrar al-Sham, an ally of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, led the negotiations from the insurgents side.
"The ceasefire has been agreed on but there are other points and negotiations are continuing on them," a source close to the negotiations from the insurgents side told Reuters.
The ceasefire also includes the Shi\’ite towns of Kefraya and Foua in Idlib province which are under attack by an alliance of Islamist insurgents known as the "Army of Fatah", which includes Ahrar al Sham.
A source familiar with the talks and who is close to Damascus said the talks were being held through an intermediary.
"The ceasefire will begin and some (people) who are in critical conditions will be evacuated. Talks will discuss further steps," the source said.
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the conflict, confirmed the ceasefire and said talks would continue on evacuating fighters from Zabadani and sending food aid to Kefraya and Foua where thousands of people are under rebel siege. It said some fighters were refusing to leave Zabadani.
Ahrar al Sham said last week that it was holding talks with an Iranian delegation over the embattled city of Zabadani, where Syrian army and Hezbollah fighters have been battling insurgents for weeks.
It said at that time that the talks were halted due to the Iranian delegation\’s "determination to empty Zabadani of civilians and fighters and displace them to another areas".
The Observatory said negotiations were held between Ahrar al Sham and Iranian delegations and Hezbollah, but the source who is close to Damascus said the agreement was made between the insurgent group and the Syrian government.
Syrian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Taking Zabadani, 10 km (6 miles) from the border with Lebanon, would be a strategic gain for the Syrian army, which is battling numerous insurgent groups on several fronts.
Hezbollah\’s military role inside Syria has been growing steadily since the start of the conflict in 2011. The Syrian government has described the group as its main ally in the fight against the insurgents battling to topple President Bashar al-Assad.