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Syrian army declares ceasefire in several areas near Damascus

Cairo, July 23 (IANS) The Syrian army announced the cessation of hostilities in several areas of a rebel stronghold near the capital Damascus.

This announcement on Saturday coincided with an agreement reached between Russia and the opposition on a de-escalation zone mechanism in the same eastern Ghouta region, Efe news reported.

According to state-run SANA news agency, the General Command of the Army and Armed Forces said the ceasefire started Saturday afternoon.

The command added the army would respect the agreement but would respond in the event any party breached the ceasefire.

Early on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the signing of a deal to create a de-escalation zone in eastern Ghouta.

The agreement was signed by the command of the Russian military intervention in Syria and representatives from the moderate opposition, two days after at least 28 government troops were killed in an ambush set up by Islamist factions in eastern Ghouta, according to British war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In recent weeks, hostilities have intensified in eastern Ghouta, where government forces are trying to make progress against rebel and Islamist factions.

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