Ceasefire in Syria begins after a US-Russia deal

RSTV Bureau
Homs : A Syrian man walks through a devastated part of the old city of Homs, Syria, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. The U.N. Security Council favoured a draft resolution endorsing the "cessation of hostilities" in Syria that is set to start at midnight local time. The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, also urges the U.N. secretary-general to resume Syria peace talks "as soon as possible."AP/PTI

Homs : A Syrian man walks through a devastated part of the old city of Homs, Syria, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016. The U.N. Security Council favoured a draft resolution endorsing the “cessation of hostilities” in Syria that is set to start at midnight local time. The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, also urges the U.N. secretary-general to resume Syria peace talks “as soon as possible.”AP/PTI

Ceasefire in Syria began on Saturday as guns fell silent after a complex deal was agreed by Russia and the US. This is the first major truce in Syria in five years of civil war. But the UN-backed ceasefire deal excludes large areas of country.

At midnight on Friday, firing stopped in several areas including suburbs around the capital and the northern city of Aleppo, news agency AFP reported.The guns fell silent after a day of intense Russian air strikes on rebel bastions across the war-torn country.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said peace talks would resume on March 7 if the ceasefire agreement holds and more aid is delivered which is a key sticking point in negotiations for a truce.

Fighting appears to have “calmed down”, although one incident is being investigated, and a special task force will meet today to monitor the fledgling ceasefire, he told reporters in Geneva.

The nationwide cessation of hostilities is the first pause in fighting since Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011. So far the war has already claimed more than 270,000 lives.

Previous attempts to end the fighting in Syria, have failed. Both Russia and the US, who are backing opposite sides in the fight, have warned that applying the ceasefire on the ground will be difficult.

Analysts have also questioned whether it can be effective on Syria’s complex battlefields, as the truce does not include jihadists from the Islamic State group and Al-Nusra Front.

Monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was quiet in the north of Latakia province and in the central provinces of Homs and Hama.

“I may be up late tonight and hope I won’t be wakened tomorrow by the sound of airplanes,” Mohammed Nohad, a resident of Aleppo’s southern rebel-held district of Al-Kalasseh told AFP.

Intermittent clashes between pro-regime forces and the jihadists continued after the ceasefire began, the Observatory said, as well as fighting between jihadists and Kurdish forces.

“I can’t hide the fact that I’m happy the war has stopped, even for a few minutes,” 24-year-old regime soldier Abdel Rahman Issa said from the battlefield Jobar area on the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

“If it continues like this, maybe we can go home,” he added.

Less than an hour before the ceasefire, the UN Security Council gave its unanimous backing to the truce in a resolution drafted by the US and Russia.

US Ambassador Samantha Power acknowledged there was “some skepticism” as to whether the ceasefire would last. But Power also said the ceasefire offered the “best chance to reduce the violence”.

A spokesman for Turkey’s presidency expressed worries over the ceasefire “because of the continuing Russian air raids and ground attacks by forces of (President Bashar al-) Assad”.

Russia began air strikes in Syria in September saying it was targeting “terrorists”, but critics have accused Moscow of hitting rebel forces in support of the regime.

(With inputs from agencies)