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Truce in Syria's Homs province after safe zone agreed: Russia

More than 147,000 people will be covered by the new 'de-escalation' zone according to the Russian defence ministry
Syrian government forces in a mountainous area around the town of Flita near the border with Lebanon (AFP)

Russia's defence ministry and Syria's opposition have agreed to create a new "de-escalation" zone north of the city of Homs, the ministry spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, was shown saying on Russia's state Rossiya 24 TV channel on Thursday. A ceasefire in this area is set to take affect at 12pm on Thursday, he said.

The new de-escalation zone will include 84 settlements populated by more than 147,000 people, Konashenkov said.

On Saturday, Syria's army and its allies reached the edge of al-Sukhna, the last town held by the Islamic State (IS) group in Homs province and a key step in their multi-pronged offensive against the militants, a Hezbollah-run military media unit said.

Sukhna is on the main desert highway between Palmyra and the government's besieged enclave at Deir al-Zor, about 130km to the east.

The Hezbollah media unit earlier said the Sukhna gas field and heights above the town were within range of the army and its allies' fire.

A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported that the army had similar fire control across the whole town and that most IS militants there had fled.

The army and allies including Lebanon's Hezbollah and other Shia militias are pushing through Syria's eastern desert to assault IS's heartland along the Euphrates valley.

Another prong in the offensive is being waged further north, where the army and its allies are advancing along the southern bank of the Euphrates south of Raqqa. Russian jets are supporting the campaign.

US-backed Kurdish-led forces have taken swathes of the land north of the Euphrates and are pushing into Raqqa, previously the militants’ Syrian capital.

Embassy attacked

Russia's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that its embassy compound in Damascus came under mortar fire from "terrorist groups of fighters", causing no casualties.

"Two shells fell in the grounds of the Russian diplomatic mission and two more exploded just outside the perimeter," Moscow said, causing slight damage but not injuring anyone.

The ministry said that "we decisively condemn terrorist attacks against the Russian diplomatic mission in Damascus", following a number of recent incidents.

The ministry previously in June said that mortars exploded close to the embassy's perimeter, attributing the attack either to former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham or its ally Faylaq al-Rahman.

Russia, which is providing military backing for Bashar al-Assad's government, also said the embassy came under mortar fire on two separate days in February.

Moscow called for Western countries in the Security Council to condemn the latest attack and confirmed that it will continue its "uncompromising battle against terrorists in Syria".