Babila rebels insist truce does not mean reconciliation
February 20, 2014
BREAK IN BABILA: Rebel forces in the town of Babila in the southern Damascus suburbs Wednesday rejected government reports that regime troops had seized the town and that rebels had joined forces with the pro-Assad National Defense Forces (NDF) after a “reconciliation pact” was signed between the two sides Monday.
“We agreed on a truce to open the road and end the siege of civilians,” says a bearded opposition fighter, an automatic weapon slung over his shoulder.
He added that rebel fighters were forced to grant regime media entry into the town for a period of one hour so that they could take photographs demonstrating that they had reached a reconciliation agreement, as a precondition for agreeing to lift a siege that had been in place for more than 18 months.
Per the conditions of the truce, forces in Babila will observe a ceasefire, rebel fighters will surrender their heavy weapons and government forces will lift the siege and allow humanitarian aid to enter the town. The agreement also stipulates that government forces will raise the Syrian flag over state institutions in the area.
A number of opposition activists have insisted that the agreement was to implement a ceasefire, not reconciliation.
On Monday, a Syrian government delegation including Outer Damascus Governor Hussein Makhlouf and NDF leader Fadi Suqour visited the town, as photos circulated of NDF soldiers laughing alongside rebels.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State in Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) published a photo showing its forces pulling down the regime flag and rejecting the truce.
In addition to the Babila ceasefire, opposition and regime forces have recently agreed to a number of similar truces elsewhere in Outer Damascus, including the towns of Qudsaya, Moadammiyet a-Sham and the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.