east DamascusSeptember 1, 2015http://syriadirect.org/news/syria-direct-news-update-9-1-15/Twenty young men from the regime-encircled town of Qudsiya turned themselves in to regime forces on Monday in accordance with a reconciliation agreement to lift the “stifling blockade” of 500,000 people there and in neighboring al-Hameh since late July, a member of the al-Hameh Coordination Council told Syria Direct on Monday. Those who turned themselves in were “the first group of those wanted by the regime for compulsory military service, defecting from the military and holding peaceful protests,” said Abu Ali, an administrative member of the al-Hameh Local Coordination Council. The Qudsiya residents “pledged not to challenge regime forces,” he said, adding that the regime would not lift the blockade by opening roads to Damascus, roughly 10km away, preventing the entry of food and fuel to the towns until two other groups of wanted individuals from the cities hand themselves over. Other terms of the agreement include installing a pro-regime Popular Committees checkpoint at the entrance of a main street and closing all streets connecting the two cities to one another, Abu Ali said. Negotiations with the regime to end the blockade began 40 days ago, when the regime claimed FSA fighters kidnapped a soldier from a checkpoint, triggering a ban on the movement of people and goods to and from the towns, save for government employees and students. Many of those in al-Hameh and Qudsiya are already displaced from East and West Ghouta and southern Damascus, the London-based pan-Arab news agency Arabi 21 reportedon Monday. The rebel-controlled towns regime just Damascus are a weak point for the regime due to their slight elevation overlooking areas including the majority-Alawite al-Wurour district and Syrian army officers’ housing, the pro-opposition Hizb al-Jumhuriyah news site reported Monday.