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Syrian army declares temporary, nationwide truce

Published 06/07/2016

Syria's military declared a unilateral, three-day ceasefire for the whole country (AP)
Syria's military declared a unilateral, three-day ceasefire for the whole country (AP)

The Syrian military has declared a unilateral, three-day ceasefire for the entire country, with the start of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The truce, announced on Wednesday, is to expire at midnight on Friday, according to state TV.

This is the first time Syrian authorities have declared a blanket truce for the whole country.

It was unclear if militant bodies, such as the Islamic State group, are excluded from the ceasefire. The government of Bashar Assad considers all armed opposition to be terrorists.

The last truce - a high-profile "cessation of hostilities" brokered by the US and Russia - was declared on February 27 and excluded militant groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.

For weeks, it sharply reduced violence in much of the country. However, the exclusion of areas under the militants' control opened the door for disagreements over who else was considered a terrorist group and would therefore be excluded from the ceasefire.

The February ceasefire finally collapsed with a government offensive in the northern province of Aleppo, where a coalition of armed opposition groups has strongholds and cooperates with the Nusra Front.

Violence was already reported on Wednesday.

A powerful armed rebel group, which is in control of areas in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, said there was no ceasefire on the ground.

Yasser al-Tayeb, a spokesman for the Army of Islam group, said clashes with pro-government forces have not let up.

Pro-government forces are pressing on with their ground offensive on Mayda, in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, which they launched on Tuesday, Mr al-Tayeb said.

The pro-government forces have also continued the bombardment of the besieged suburb of Douma, he added.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-government militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah group, have all but seized control of Mayda, an important supply route for the rebel-held suburbs.

In northern Aleppo, a province hotly contested between the government and an array of insurgent groups, activists reported reciprocal violence.

Two children were killed when insurgent groups lobbed missiles into al-Zahraa, a predominantly Shiite town in the north.

The observatory said one person was killed and a media activist was wounded when war planes struck in a rebel-controlled part of Aleppo.

A rescue worker in the rebel-held part of Aleppo, Bibars Meshal, said that barrel bombs struck Hraitan, an area north of the city.

AP

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