Syrian rebels agree in Qatar to stop fighting each other

Syrian rebels agree in Qatar to stop fighting each other

BEIRUT - Reuters
Syrian rebels agree in Qatar to stop fighting each other

A Syrian rebel fighter from the Failaq al-Rahman brigade holds a position on the frontline against regime forces in the rebel-controlled village of Bala, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus, on May 15, 2016 - AFP photo

Two Syrian rebel groups which have been fighting each other near Damascus have negotiated a ceasefire in Qatar, statements published by the two groups said. 

More than 500 people have been killed since April when fighting erupted between rival Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman groups. Their rift has been exploited by Syrian government forces to capture territory in the Eastern Ghouta area outside Damascus. 

"A complete ceasefire agreement was arrived at, overseen by the High Negotiations Committee chief coordinator Dr Riad Hijab," a Jaish al-Islam statement released on May 24 said, adding that the talks had taken place in Doha. 

Jaish al-Islam is part of the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC). It is one of the biggest Syrian rebel groups and has been the dominant faction in the Eastern Ghouta. 

Failaq al-Rahman, also an Islamist group, has been supported in the battle against Jaish al-Islam by fighters linked to the al-Qaeda's Nusra Front. 

A number of attempts at mediation had failed to halt the fighting. 

Last week, Syrian government forces and allied militia seized an extensive area southeast of Damascus from rebels in what the Observatory said was one of the most significant government advances this year. 

The statements said representatives of the two groups met in Doha, Qatar and concluded an agreement on May 24 to stop fighting, to release detainees, to open roads to civilians and to return civilian institutions to their owners. 

They also agreed to halt inflammatory media campaigns and to form a court to rule on deaths which have occurred.