Guns fall mostly silent in Syria as truce takes effect

  • Reuters, Reuters, Beirut
  • Updated: Feb 28, 2016 01:50 IST
A man walks near damage in Kafr Hamra village, northern Aleppo countryside in Syria. (Reuters Photo)

Fighting mostly stopped across western and northern Syria on Saturday and Russia halted its air raids, under a cessation of hostilities which the United Nations called the best hope for peace since civil war began five years ago.

Under the US-Russian accord accepted by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and many of his enemies, fighting should cease so aid can reach civilians and talks can open to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and made 11 million homeless.

Russia, which says it intends to continue strikes against areas held by Islamist fighters that are not covered by the truce, said it would suspend all flights over Syria for the day on Saturday to ensure no wrong targets were hit by mistake.

A Syrian rebel commander said government shelling had stopped in some parts of Syria but continued elsewhere in what he described as a violation that could wreck the agreement.

The truce is the culmination of new diplomatic efforts that reflect a battlefield dramatically changed since Russia joined the war in September with airstrikes to prop up Assad. Moscow’s intervention effectively destroyed the hope his enemies have maintained for five years — encouraged by Arab and Western states — to topple him by force.

The agreement is the first of its kind to be attempted in four years and, if it holds, would be the most successful truce of the war so far.

“Let’s pray that this works because frankly this is the best opportunity we can imagine the Syrian people has had for the last five years in order to see something better and hopefully something related to peace,” UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said at a midnight news conference in Geneva.

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