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Truce called between Syrian regime, insurgents

A monitoring group has said talks yield 48-hour ceasefire in northwest Syria along Lebanon border. A simultaneous ceasefire has been called to give relief to two loyalist villages in Idlib province.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a deal to halt attacks was reached late Tuesday by the Islamist insurgent group Ahrar al-Sham and Iranian and Lebanese Shiite fighters from Hezbollah to temporarily stop shooting at each other.

Representatives have agreed to halt fighting from 6 a.m. local time (0300 UTC) Tuesday for 48 hours around the rebel-held town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border as well as two government-controlled villages in Idlib province under siege by rebels, sources told the Reuters news agency.

The villages all have significant Alawite populations, a Shiite sect to which the ruling Assad family belongs, and whose support the government draws upon for support and conscripts.

The Syrian military - backed by Hezbollah militia - launched an offensive last month to clear Zabadani of rebel fighters, the last bastion of insurgents along the Syria-Lebanon frontier.

Meanwhile, insurgent groups are laying siege to the Alawite villages in Idlib province - largely under control of Islamist militias battling the Syrian government and its loyalists. The ceasefire would allow combatants to resupply and allow food and medical into the areas before fighting is expected to resume.

Now in its fifth year, the Syrian civil war has killed more than 240,000 people and displaced millions of civilians.

jar/bw (Reuters, AFP)