World

Russia: 'Safe zone' in Syria's Ghouta demarcated

Russia's Defense Ministry said Saturday an agreement has been reached with the Syrian opposition on the boundaries for a de-escalation zone for the eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus, after days of intense fighting and bombardment in the area.

The ministry statement did not give details, but said the agreement includes the zone's borders as well as routes for delivery of humanitarian aid and free movement of civilians. It said the agreement was reached in talks in Cairo, with Egyptian mediation.

The zone is one of four proposed in a plan approved in May by Russia and Iran, which support Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Turkey, which backs rebels fighting his forces. Under the Russian plan, President Bashar Assad's air force would halt flights over designated areas across the war-torn country.

Violence had been reported in the "de-escalation zones" since the deal was struck more than two months ago. Until early Saturday, the eastern Damascus suburbs known as eastern Ghouta have been subjected to shelling and airstrikes.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Ghouta-based activist Anas al-Dimashqi reported at least three airstrikes early Saturday on the suburbs of Douma and Ein Tarma.

"The situation is quiet now in Ghouta," al-Dimashqi said via text message, adding that it was not clear if this is the result of the Russian announcement.

In northern Syria, opposition activists said the rebel-held province of Idlib has been clam after two main militant groups agreed to end days of fighting that killed scores.

The fighting between the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaida-linked Hay'at Tahrir al Sham — Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee — that is also known as HTS, broke out on Tuesday in several areas and focused on the Bab al-Hawa crossing at the border with Turkey.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that calm has prevailed in Idlib since sunset Friday. It added that four days of fighting left 92 dead, including 15 civilians.

Ahrar al-Sham and HTC had issued statements saying a cease-fire agreement has been reached and both sides will free detainees.

They said Bab al-Hawa will be run by a civilian administration.