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This Map Shows Why a Syrian Cease-fire Might Not Be as Good as It Seems

A cease-fire quiets the fighting in three Syrian towns, but does little to change the war's trajectory.

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A cease-fire in three towns along Syria’s chaotic border with Lebanon appears to be holding, at least for now, with news and social media accounts suggesting that pro-Assad Hezbollah fighters are abiding by the terms of a temporary truce with the anti-Assad rebels who once held the area. Twitter user @Hamosh84 posted pictures Thursday purportedly showing Hezbollah fighters standing calmly just a few dozen feet away from some of the insurgents.

The cease-fire commenced Thursday morning and is set to expire after 48 hours, or Saturday morning. Anything providing a respite from Syria’s unrelenting carnage is certainly a welcome development for the suffering civilians caught in the crossfire.

But this agreement doesn’t necessarily hold out the promise of evolving into a longer-term pact. Instead, Syria expert Joshua Landis said the deal masks what is a significant victory for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that has sent hundreds of fighters into Syria to fight alongside Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Under the terms of the pact, the anti-Assad insurgents will be given safe passage out of the key border town of Zabadani, effectively handing it to Hezbollah.

That, in turn, brings Hezbollah close to fulfilling one of its longest-held strategic objectives: conquering and controlling Syria’s entire border with Lebanon, the group’s primary stronghold. The map below shows the three towns covered by the cease-fire — and why they’re so important to the two sides that have fought for so long, and paid such a heavy price, to claim them.

Ivan Sidorenko/Twitter

Henry Johnson is a fellow at Foreign Policy. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College with a degree in history and previously wrote for LobeLog. @HenryJohnsoon

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