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'The last chance to save Syria' - the ceasefire has held overnight

US Secretary of State John Kerry says it’s far too early to draw conclusions, but that the plan has a chance to work.

Syrian President Bashar Assad praying in a mosque in Damascus for Eid al-Adha
Syrian President Bashar Assad praying in a mosque in Damascus for Eid al-Adha
Image: AP

A CEASEFIRE IN Syria, brokered by Moscow and Washington, appears to be holding as it enters its first full day.

An initial 48-hour truce came into force at 7pm local time last night across Syria, except in areas held by jihadists such as the Islamic State group.

The US and Russia brokered the ceasefire, dubbed by Washington as perhaps the “last chance to save Syria”.

Scepticicism

There has been scepticism over how long the truce would hold. The deal’s fragility was underscored even before it took effect when President Bashar al-Assad vowed to retake all of Syria from “terrorists”. Assad has previously referred to rebels as foreign-backed terrorists.

Syria’s opposition and rebels remain deeply sceptical and have yet to endorse the deal.

Under the arrangement, fighting will halt across areas not held by jihadists and aid deliveries to besieged areas will begin. Government and rebel forces will ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to the war-torn city of Aleppo in particular.

The ceasefire will be renewed every 48 hours and, if it holds for a week, Moscow and Washington will begin an unprecedented joint campaign to target jihadist forces.

SYRIA CONTROL Map of areas controlled by groups in Syria Source: AP

Too early to draw conclusions

US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Washington it was “far too early to draw conclusions”.

But he said: “For all the doubts that remain, and there will be challenges in the days to come, this plan has a chance to work.

And I urge all the parties to support it because it may be the last chance that one has to save a united Syria.

Kerry also said that the only “realistic and possible solution” to the conflict would be a return to UN-mediated peace talks.

China G20 US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking at the G20 summit in China Source: AP

Syria’s five-year war has killed more than 300,000 people and displaced half the population, making it the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II according to analysts.

On the ground

Syrian residents said they hoped for the best.

“I was checking the time all day, waiting for it to turn 7.00,” said Khaled al-Muraweh, a 38-year-old shopkeeper in western Aleppo’s Furqan district.

I hope the ceasefire holds so I can see my brother who lives in the opposition-held part of the city.

Residents remained out on the streets until midnight, taking advantage of the truce to celebrate the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

Activist Hassaan Abu Nuh, from the opposition-held town of Talbisseh said he was very relieved that the regime bombardment had stopped.

We usually stay up all night with the airplanes, but thank God last night we could all sleep.

Just before the truce began, a reported 13 people were killed by regime shelling of the rebel town of Douma near Damascus, and another 13 were killed in unidentified raids in Idlib province.

Last week Syrian government warplanes dropped suspected chlorine bombs on a crowded neighbourhood in Aleppo, injuring dozens. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime prohibited by the Hague Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Additional reporting from Elizabeth O’Malley.

© AFP 2016

Read: Female troops fighting Isis in Syria support the ‘Repeal the 8th’ campaign – and Dublin Bus drivers

Read: Warplanes have dropped suspected chlorine bombs on a crowded neighbourhood in Aleppo

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