Significant lull in Syria fighting after ceasefire deal, UN says
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says there has been a “significant drop” in violence after a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the United States came into force in the crisis-hit Arab country.
“Today calm appears to have prevailed across Hama, Latakia, Aleppo city and Rural Aleppo and Idlib, with only some allegations of sporadic and geographically isolated incidents,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva.
He added, “Sources on the ground, including inside Aleppo city, said the situation has dramatically improved.”
The UN Syria envoy further noted that he had “no information about any UN trucks moving at this stage,” demanding “assurances that the drivers and the convoy will be unhindered and untouched.”
The “seven-day regime of calm” came into effect across Syria at 19:00 (1600 GMT) on Monday.
Reports say the ceasefire is largely holding in Aleppo, a key battleground between army forces and different militant groups, but residents say they are still waiting for relief aid.
“The truce is good, but it’s not enough. We want food to come in. The situation is still bad as the markets are empty,” said 55-year-old Abu Jamil, a resident of the Ansari neighborhood in Aleppo.
Russia has sent artillery reconnaissance equipment to Aleppo to detect and suppress attempts at ceasefire violations.
The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor reported minor violations, but no deaths or major fighting.
The Damascus government has reported a series of violations by militants in different parts of the country. The Russian Defense Ministry also says army forces are fully respecting the truce while terrorists had violated it 23 times.
“Syrian government troops have completely stopped firing” except in extremist-held areas, but “the same cannot be said” for US-backed militants, senior Russian military officer Viktor Poznikhir said.
Meanwhile, the Russian military has established a mobile observation post on Castello Road, which serves as the only path into the militant-controlled eastern areas of Aleppo.
Russian media outlets reported that the post has been set up at the entrance to the city to monitor ceasefire.
Syrian army soldiers and fighters from allied popular defense groups wrested control over Castello Road on July 26.
On September 9, Moscow and Washington agreed on a milestone deal on the Syrian crisis after some 13 hours of marathon talks in the Swiss city of Geneva.
The deal, which began on September 12 and lasts for at least 7 days to hold, calls for increased humanitarian aid for those trapped inside the embattled northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo.
Russian and American fighter jets would then launch joint airstrikes, and pound the positions of Takfiri terrorist groups in Syria.
Damascus has, for its part, committed to the demands of the deal. “The Syrian government has approved the agreement, and a cessation of hostilities will begin in Aleppo for humanitarian reasons,” Syria’s official SANA news agency reported over the weekend.
The Saudi-backed Ahrar al-Sham terrorist group has rejected the ceasefire, alleging that the measure would only “reinforce” the Syrian government and “increase the suffering” of civilians.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Over the past few months, the Takfiri militants active in the Arab country have suffered major setbacks as the Syrian army has managed to liberate several areas.
According to the UN’s Syria envoy, more than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.
The Observatory on Tuesday published a death toll of over 300,000.