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Syrian rebel group says ceasefire over, talks collapse

A Syrian rebel group said on Saturday a ceasefire was over between insurgents and the Syrian army and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in a town near the Lebanese border and two villages in the northwest.

Ahmed Qara Ali, spokesman for the Ahrar al-Sham insurgent group, said rebel groups had begun to escalate military operations after the collapse of negotiations between the warring sides brokered by Turkey and Iran.

There was no immediate word from Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi'ite group backed by Iran, or the Syrian military. Ahrar al-Sham had been leading the negotiations on behalf of the insurgents.

The ceasefire had held since Wednesday morning in the town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border and two Shi'ite villages of Kefraya and al-Foua in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Zabadani has been the focus of a weeks-long offensive by Hezbollah and the army against insurgent groups holed up inside.

Insurgent groups had in turned launched a parallel attack on the two villages. Insurgent shelling of the two villages early on Wednesday killed a child and wounded 12 more people, state TV reported.

Sources on both sides had said talks had been aimed at securing a withdrawal of rebel fighters from Zabadani and a withdrawal of citizens from the two villages.

Qara Ali said: "The reason it has collapsed is we wanted the release of 40,000 prisoners, and the Iranians rejected it."

A rebel fighter in Zabadani said army warplanes were flying over the town.

[Source: Reuters, Beirut, 15Aug15]

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