Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian government forces broke a truce with Syrian rebels in the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiya on Friday, leaving a planned delivery of food and humanitarian aid in doubt. Local sources confirmed that Syrian rebels and Assad forces had clashed in the rebel-held district, leaving an unconfirmed number of residents killed or injured. This is reportedly the second time that Assad forces have broken the tenuous truce in Moadamiya.
The latest reports from Moadamiya come after Syrian rebels agreed a two-stage deal with the Assad regime to secure the entry of much-needed food and humanitarian aid to the besieged district, in what has been viewed by some parties as a humiliating surrender. The deal included town residents raising the flag of the Syrian regime and rebels leaving the district in exchange for the entry of humanitarian aid and a guarantee that government soldiers would not enter Moadamiya. The truce would have seen rebels leave and local residents establishing armed groups to protect the town, with the army not entering the area but guarding it from outside.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat prior to the deal’s enforcement, Ismail Al-Darani, a member of the revolutionary command council in Rif Dimashq governorate affirmed that the deal was a “truce” with conditions on both sides. “The deal will allow foods and humanitarian relief and medical aid to be delivered to the city as well as evacuating the wounded, elderly and sick in exchange for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) leaving the city and the displaced returning without any security pressures,” he said.
Over the past ten months, Assad troops have laid siege to Moadamiya, blocking all food, medical and fuel supplies, leading to a number of local residents, including children, dying of starvation, local activists told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The government’s choking blockade came as part of attempts to drive rebels out of the city, which they captured in 2012.
According to Darani, government troops also broke the truce on Christmas Day. He said: “[they] violated the truce on Wednesday afternoon, attempting to enter Moadamiya from its northeastern side, specifically from Al-Quneitra Street.”
He said: “This raised concerns among rebel fighters in the city who began to question the intentions of the regime.”
Darani told Asharq Al-Awsat that negotiations for the truce—which local media reported was set to last between 48 and 72 hours— began a month ago thanks to the efforts of local residents, but the rebels initially rejected any agreement with the regime. However, he added, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Moadamiya had forced the opposition to accept the truce.
Reuters quoted an activist who oversaw the deal and who confirmed that negotiations had been conducted between the FSA and local members of the government’s military and political departments.
A similar series of truces had allowed approximately 5,000 Moadamiya residents to flee the town earlier this year.