Syria declares 72-hour ceasefire during Eid



DAMASCUS, SYRIA, Maher Al Mounes with Karam al-Masri in Aleppo- The Syrian army said Wednesday it was observing a 72-hour ceasefire across the country coinciding with the festival marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
The announcement did not say if the truce extends to jihadists of the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, but a security source said his understanding was they were excluded.



As fighting continued on the ground, especially in second city Aleppo, some rebel groups said they would respect the ceasefire although they doubted the seriousness of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
US Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the ceasefire, and said he was working with Russia and others to try to transform it into a lasting truce.
Attempts to implement ceasefires in Syria have repeatedly failed, as have diplomatic efforts to end a five-year civil war that has killed more than 280,000 people and forced millions from their homes.
The latest takes effect during the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival marking the end of Ramadan, when devout Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.
"A 'regime of silence' is applied across all territory of the Syrian Arab Republic for 72 hours from 1:00 am on July 6 to midnight on July 8," the army said announcing the move.
Assad attended Eid prayers in third city Homs, in a rare public appearance outside the capital.
State television showed him joining worshippers at the Al-Safa mosque in Homs, which is mainly under government control except for a besieged neighbourhood on the city's outskirts.
In Tbilisi, Kerry welcomed the "Syrian army's declaration of a period of quiet in honour and celebration of Eid".
"So is 72 hours enough? The answer is simple: 'no'. Is 72 hours more welcome than nothing? The answer is 'yes'."
A ceasefire announced by Russia and the United States in late February has mostly collapsed amid repeated violations.
Temporary truces have also been announced in recent months for Aleppo, scene of some of the heaviest fighting in the war, but have fallen apart.
- Shelling in Aleppo -
Aleppo, which was Syria's commercial and manufacturing hub before the civil war erupted, is divided between a rebel-held east and regime-controlled west.
Eastern districts have faced heavy bombardment including regime air strikes, while rebels regularly fire rockets into the west.
On Wednesday, Aleppo's eastern areas came under fire, said an AFP correspondent and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
In the eastern Al-Mashad district a civilian was killed and several wounded when artillery fire fell near a mosque hosting Eid prayers, the Observatory said.
Rebel forces fired back at regime-held parts of the city with mortars, the monitor said.
"Shells have been falling on the neighbourhood since early this morning," said Al-Mashad resident Ahmad Naseef.
"I had planned to visit family and friends, to bring my children out to play, but we decided to stay inside the house in case the shelling resumes," the 30-year-old told AFP.
"I hope things will calm down a bit during Eid, not for me but for my children."
In a statement, several rebel groups announced they would observe the truce "as long as it is respected by the other side".
"Up until now, it has not lived up to its announcement, as it launched several attacks in several regions today," they said.
In Damascus, residents were sceptical.
"I don't believe in this truce; earlier ones were violated repeatedly," said Saad al-Sawwas, 25.
Syria's conflict began in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations and has evolved into a complex multi-front war.
IS emerged from the chaos of the war, seizing control of large parts of Syria and neighbouring Iraq, committing widespread atrocities in areas under its control, and organising and inspiring jihadist attacks across the Middle East and in Western cities.
Washington has backed rebel forces in Syria and Moscow is supporting Assad, but the rise of IS has seen efforts focus on defeating the jihadists.
Russia and the United States launched a major attempt last year to bring about peace talks between Assad and rebel forces, but the negotiations faltered as the partial truce announced in February fell apart.
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Wednesday, July 6th 2016
Maher Al Mounes with Karam al-Masri
           


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