Syria Ceasefire Begins Under US-Russia Deal

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Saturday, 27 February 2016 10:37 Last Updated on Saturday, 27 February 2016 11:12 Written by AFP

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Guns fell silent across Syria on Saturday after a landmark UN-backed ceasefire came into effect, the first major truce in five years of civil war that have claimed more than 270,000 lives.

On the stroke of midnight, firing stopped in suburbs around the capital and the devastated northern city of Aleppo, AFP correspondents said, after a day of intense Russian air strikes on rebel bastions across the country.

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.

The nationwide cessation of hostilities would be the first pause in fighting since Syria's civil war broke out five years ago.

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

But previous attempts to end the fighting have failed and Russia and the US, which back opposing sides in the fight, have warned that applying it on the ground will be difficult.

"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."

Analysts have also questioned whether it can be effective on Syria's complex battlefields, as the truce allows fighting to continue with Daesh and Al-Nusra Front jihadists.

There were intermittent clashes after the ceasefire began between pro-regime forces and both groups, the Observatory said, as well as fighting between jihadists and Kurdish forces.

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 scepticism" as to whether the ceasefire will take hold, but said it 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 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 Assad.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the agreement could be "a turning point" in the war, even as Russian planes launched a wave of attacks on non-jihadist rebel areas before the deadline.

Source : tolonews[dot]com
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