The Syrian military has temporarily halted operations in the southern Daraa, Suwayda and Quneitra provinces, according to a Monday statement issued by the Defense Ministry.
The unilateral ceasefire, which went into effect on Sunday and will end this Thursday at midnight, is ostensibly aimed at “supporting the peace and negotiation process”, according to the ministry statement.
Notably, the unilateral ceasefire was announced after 33 Syrian opposition groups -- all of which are based in the three effected provinces -- said they would not participate in two days of peace talks slated to begin Tuesday in Kazakh capital Astana.
Since June 3, the Assad regime had stepped up attacks in opposition-held parts of Daraa. Along with Quneitra, Daraa falls within a network of “de-escalation zones” to be established in accordance with an earlier agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran.
According to that agreement, which was signed in Astana in early May (and officially came into effect on May 5), the zones would cover the city of Idlib, along with parts of the Latakia, Homs, Aleppo, Hama, Damascus, Daraa and Quneitra provinces.
Syria has remained locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed in the conflict and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN officials.
Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria, now hosts some 3 million Syrian refugees -- more than any other country in the world.
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