Syrian Army Announces Ceasefire in Southern Syria Until Thursday

BEIRUT (Reuters) -
Rebel fighters prepare to fire mortar shells towards forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Quneitra province, bordering the Golan Heights, June 24. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Faqir)

The Syrian army said it would suspend combat operations in southern Syria until Thursday, including in Quneitra province, where Israel has hit army outposts in recent days, according to a statement carried by Syrian state media.

The army general command said the ceasefire took effect from midday on Sunday and was being done to support “reconciliation efforts,” in the second unilateral ceasefire in the last two weeks.

A spokesman for the Southern Front, a coalition of Free Syrian Army rebel groups, cast doubt on whether the Syrian army and its Iranian-backed allies would halt attacks on the front lines in Deraa and in Quneitra province.

“The Free Syrian Army are very distrustful of the regime’s intentions in abiding by the ceasefire. It will be like the previous one,” Major Issam al Rayes told Reuters.

On June 17, the army announced a ceasefire that only affected fighting in the southern city of Deraa along the border with Israel.

The latest announcement extends the ceasefire from Deraa to the whole of southern Syria, including the southwestern Quneitra province near the border with Israel and Sweida province in the southeast.

Rebels launched an offensive last week against government-held Baath, the provincial capital of the Syrian Golan Heights. They made initial gains on the southern and western fringes of the city, but an army counterattack mostly pushed the rebels back to their former positions.

The IDF has also struck several times at Syrian army outposts in the area, where the Iranian-backed Hezbollah has a strong presence, saying it was retaliating for errant fire from Syria’s positions there.