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Cease-fire reached in Palestinian camp in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — Various fighting factions and the Syrian government reached a cease-fire agreement in a besieged Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, activists and state media said Sunday.

If it holds, the agreement in Yarmouk, the largest of nine Palestinian camps in Syria, could help ease the suffering of some 18,000 civilians who have been trapped there since the government imposed a blockade in mid-2013. Previous agreements to end the fighting in Yarmouk have all collapsed.

Syria's official SANA news agency said the latest deal was sponsored by the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the cease-fire.

Under the agreement, heavy weapons are to be removed from the camp, barriers are to be taken down and an internal force is to be created to ensure security. The main entrances to the camp are to be opened, and infrastructure is to be restored.

The Observatory said rebel groups in the camp, as well as pro- and anti-Assad Palestinian factions are all party to the deal. The U.N. agency that supports Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, expressed cautious optimism about the deal.

"We would welcome any durable and binding agreement that achieves a cessation of hostilities, full humanitarian access and an end to the suffering of civilian in Yarmouk and all of Syria," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said.

UNRWA has been delivering badly needed humanitarian aid to those inside Yarmouk. Those aid shipments have only been on an intermittent basis, however, largely because of fighting in and around the camp.

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