Syrian army, rebels agree to 72-hour truce

Children walk past the rubble of damaged buildings on Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of DamascusA Syrian rebel alliance agreed to a three-day nationwide ceasefire announced by the Syrian army on Wednesday and the United States voiced hope a more significant truce could be achieved, though fighting and air attacks continued.

The truce was the first to be declared across the whole country since one brokered by foreign powers in February to facilitate talks to end the five-year-old civil war. That truce has mostly unraveled, and the escalating violence caused talks to break down.

Wednesday’s ceasefire covers the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. But opposition groups and a monitoring organization said little had actually changed on the ground.

“The regime announced the ceasefire, but they did not commit to it. There has been a lot of shelling and bombing on Douma and Daraya (rebel-held towns near Damascus),” a spokeswoman for the Syrian opposition delegation to Geneva peace talks said.

Syria’s military high command said in a statement that “a regime of calm will be implemented across all territory of the Syrian Arab Republic for a period of 72 hours from 1 a.m. on July 6 until 2400 on July 8, 2016”.

The Syrian government uses the term “regime of calm” to denote a temporary ceasefire.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel alliance later said it would respect the Eid holiday ceasefire, but only if government forces also abided by it.

“We, the armed revolutionary groups in Syria, welcome any effort towards a ceasefire for the happy Eid al-Fitr period. We declare we will abide by it so long as the other side does the same,” an FSA statement said.

“Until now, (the government) has not abided by what it has announced, in that it has launched a number of attacks in various areas today,” the statement added.

It said the rebel bloc welcomed international efforts that had yielded the announcement from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but attacks had not ceased as a result. (Courtesy Reuters)