Calm reigns in Syria, as cease-fire holds

The week-long, USA – and Russia-brokered cease-fire started at sunset Monday.

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Speaking in Washington, US secretary of state John Kerry said early reports spoke of some reduction of violence as well as sporadic fighting, but that it was “far too early to draw definitive conclusions”.

Ahmad al-Saoud, who heads the US-backed Division 13 rebel group which signed the letter, said they had received no response to their concerns.

It also allows the government to continue to strike the Islamic State group and al-Qaida-linked militants for another week.

The Syrian civil war has killed more than 300,000 people and forced more than 5 million to flee the country, spawning an global refugee crisis.

Cities and towns that have been lit up by heavy gunfire and bombardments in recent weeks experienced their first night of widespread calm.

The first week of the truce will be crucial.

However, the al Qaeda-linked insurgents are closely allied to many rebel factions and are a powerful force in the defense of Aleppo in particular.

“The Syrian government is determined to recover every area from the terrorists”, Assad told Syrian state media after he attended Eid al-Adha holiday prayers in Darayya, a former militant stronghold recently recaptured by the government.

Under the agreement signed by Washington and Moscow, Syrian forces will stop attacking specific areas now controlled by the opposition.

The NGO said that the attacks took place in opposition-held areas.

Beirut-A ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russian Federation was set to begin at sunset on Monday (yesterday) in Syria amid mixed messages of commitment from various rebel factions but with verbal backing by President Bashar Assad’s government.

Turkey has done so too, but lack of worldwide criticism of its incursion into northern Syria in August may be a quid pro quo for Ankara not seeking to undermine the latest accord.

Russian Federation is a major backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States supports some of the rebel groups fighting to topple him.

These have been cut off over the last week after a government counter-offensive retook the Ramouseh Road in the south of the city.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was “quiet” on almost all fronts across the country.

“Groupings of Jabhat al-Nusra [Jabhat Fatah al Sham] and ISIS [Daesh] global terrorist organizations do not stop making attempts to break the ceasefire regime”, the ministry said in a daily bulletin posted on its website.

Observers in Damascus say one of the weaknesses of the accord is that “Nusra is the backbone of the armed opposition, but has no reason to abide by the terms of the ceasefire from which it is excluded”.

While the ceasefire is said to provide a chance for humanitarian aid, some critics have expressed skepticism in the announcement. The Anadolu agency said the trucks left around noon from the Cilvegozu border gate in the southern province of Hatay, with a total of 40 trucks expected to cross the border by the end of the day. Assad’s key allies – Russia, Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah – have also endorsed the deal. The Syrian government gave its consent to the designations, Kerry said citing Russian Federation. It begins after a weekend during which more than 90 people – including 28 children – were killed in airstrikes.

In other developments, the Syrian military announced its forces on Tuesday shot down two Israeli aircraft – a warplane and a drone – near the Israeli-controlled part of the Golan Heights.

“What this would mean is, it would take Syrian war planes and their barrel bombs out of those skies, and prevent the regime from doing what it has done so often in the past, which is to bomb a civilian apartment or hospital and claim that in doing so they were really targeting Al-Nusra”, he elaborated. But the two powers also could approve Syrian combat missions against the group, he said.

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“I’ve been in public life for more than four decades now, and I have never seen a more complicated or entangled political and military, sectarian, somewhat religiously-overtoned issue than what exists in Syria today”. Israel has largely remained on the sidelines of the fighting in Syria, but has carried out reprisals on Syrian positions when errant fire previously landed in Israel.

Syrian opposition group welcomes cease-fire