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Syria: Government, opposition negotiate Damascus ceasefire - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Smoke is seen rising from buildings following alleged bombings by regime forces on the city of Daraya, southwest of the capital Damascus, on January 11, 2014. (AFP/Fadi Dirani)

Smoke is seen rising from buildings following alleged bombings by regime forces on the city of Daraya, southwest of Damascus, on January 11, 2014. (AFP/Fadi Dirani)

Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian government and opposition rebels are edging towards a ceasefire deal to end a two-year siege on Dariya, a suburb of Damascus, activists told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Under the deal, rebels would pull out of the besieged suburb in exchange for the government allowing thousands of displaced families to return to their homes.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled Dariya since forces that support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad laid siege to the suburb in mid-2012. According to local media reports, approximately 1,000 rebels are present in the area, along with 5,000 residents.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Syrian rebel activist Ismail Al-Darani said the deal was being brokered by civilians who left Dariya, and would see government forces deployed at the entrance to the area.

According to Darani, similar attempts to reach a deal have collapsed on three previous occasions, but mounting pressure from displaced residents have revived the prospects of a ceasefire.

Assad has been pushing to wrest control over parts of the capital, Damascus, from rebels in a bid to mobilize support ahead of presidential elections scheduled for June 3. Assad is all but guaranteed to secure another term in office, but is seeking to strengthen his grip on the country amid international condemnation of the election process.

In other news from Syria, an Al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), killed 15 civilians in a Kurdish-majority village in the north of the country, Reuters reported activists as saying on Friday.

A UK-based monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the massacre was carried out on Thursday by the Islamist group in the town of Ras Al-Ain, on the Turkish border in the Al-Hasakah governorate.

Ras Al-Ain has been under the control of Kurdish militias who have distanced themselves from the more than three-year-long conflict in Syria.

Syrian rebels have decried the Islamist group, which endorses an extremist interpretation of Islam, arguing that its violent approach would eventually give Assad legitimacy around the world.