Cease­fire in Syria brings some calm

Cru­cial days ahead for war-torn coun­try as shaky truce holds... for now

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The cease­fire in Syria ap­peared to be hold­ing last night de­spite spo­radic clashes and mi­nor vi­o­la­tions.

Ob­servers said most of the coun­try was calm amid the lat­est at­tempt by the United States and Rus­sia to bring some quiet in the coun­try’s dev­as­tat­ing civil war, now in its sixth year.

The deal, ham­mered out by US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Sergey Lavrov last week in Geneva, of­fi­cially came into ef­fect at sun­set on Mon­day.

The Syr­ian army an­nounced at the time that it would abide by the By 7DAYS News Team cease­fire un­til mid­night on Sun­day, while main­tain­ing its right to de­fend it­self against any vi­o­la­tions.

It is the sec­ond at­tempt this year to try to re­duce vi­o­lence in war-torn Syria, where the five-and-a-half-year con­flict has killed more than 250,000 peo­ple and dis­placed half the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion of 11 mil­lion.

“For the mo­ment, calm is pre­vail­ing in all ar­eas,” said Ah­mad Al Masalmeh, an op­po­si­tion ac­tivist in the south­ern prov­ince of Daraa – where Syria’s cri­sis be­gan in 2011.

The first week of this truce will be cru­cial. Dur­ing that time, all fight­ing be­tween Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar Al As­sad’s forces and the rebels is to stop. How­ever, Al As­sad’s forces can con­tinue airstrikes against ISIS.

If calm holds for seven days, the US and Rus­sia would then set up a new cen­tre that would jointly de­velop strate­gies to com­bat the Jab­hat Fatah Al Sham group, for­merly Al Nusra Front.

Un­der the truce, Al As­sad’s forces are no longer sup­posed to bomb Syria’s op­po­si­tion. The Syr­ian air force has been drop­ping bar­rel bombs on civil­ian ar­eas un­der the pre­text of tar­get­ing mil­i­tants. For the mo­ment, “calm is pre­vail­ing in all ar­eas”, said Ah­mad Al Masalmeh, an op­po­si­tion ac­tivist in the south­ern prov­ince of Daraa – where Syria’s cri­sis be­gan in 2011. Syr­ian state news agency SANA said rebels fired three shells at the gov­ern­ment-held neigh­bour­hood of Mal­lah in Aleppo. It also re­ported shelling near the Castello road, north­west of the city, and the Ra­mouseh area in the south – both main ar­ter­ies lead­ing to Aleppo. Rami Ab­dur­rah­man, from the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, said there were mi­nor truce vi­o­la­tions in cen­tral Hama prov­ince. An­other ac­tivist group, the Lo­cal Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tees, re­ported some shelling in Aleppo and the south­ern re­gion of Quneitra, while state me­dia said there were “breaches” by rebels in Aleppo. The deal’s ar­chi­tects hope the cease­fire will pave the way for a pe­riod of re­straint that can serve as the foun­da­tion for peace talks.

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