BEIRUT: A rare cease-fire negotiated with Hezbollah fighters in a Syrian town and two villages collapsed Saturday after several days during which guns fell silent, a rebel group involved in the talks and activists said.
The cease-fire in the northern rebel-held town of Zabadani, near the border with Lebanon, as well as in Foua and Kfarya, two Shiite villages in Idlib province, was reached Wednesday and was to last until Sunday.
But Ahrar al-Sham, the main rebel group involved in the negotiations, announced Saturday the negotiations had collapsed.
The talks were focused on securing safe passage for Ahrar al-Sham and civilians out of Zabadani in exchange for allowing humanitarian aid to the two besieged villages with a majority pro-government population sympathetic to Hezbollah. They also involved an exchange of prisoners.
Activists said the cease-fire was brokered with the help of Turkish and Iranian mediation.
Labib Nahhas, who heads Ahrar al-Sham’s foreign media relations, wrote on his official Twitter account that negotiations with Iran broke down, accusing Tehran of seeking to empty Zabadani of its Sunni residents.
Shiite Hezbollah receives major support from Iran, the Shiite heavyweight in the region.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the talks collapsed over how many prisoners the Syrian government would release, among other things.
Fighting in Zabadani resumed on Saturday. Residents of eastern Lebanon reported hearing the thud of explosions from across the border that broke several days of calm. Shells were also reported to have fallen Saturday morning on the village of Foua.