Truce in Damascus district allows in aid - monitor

BEIRUT - Cars carrying food and aid supplies entered a southern Damascus neighbourhood on Wednesday thanks to a local ceasefire agreement between pro-government officials and insurgents, a monitoring group said on Wednesday.

Such truces have been described by the UN Syria mediator as one of the best ways to end the conflict on an area-by-area basis. On Tuesday the envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said Syrian officials had given him positive signals on a UN proposal for a local truce in the northern city of Aleppo.

The ceasefire in the southern Damascus neighbourhood of Qadam was agreed back in August after months of negotiations, opening the way for Wednesday's aid access, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The agreement was struck between rebels in the area, the governor of Damascus, the leader of the main pro-government paramilitary group, and various other local chiefs.

The Observatory, which says it gathers information from all sides of the conflict, said dozens of residents had been able to re-enter the neighbourhood at the end of last month.

The truce called for the complete withdrawal of the army from the district, with army checkpoints at its entrances only.

It also called for the release of prisoners held by the government and gave the rebel Western-backed Free Syrian Army responsibility for running the area, allowing them to keep their weapons.