Daily Management Review

Silence Greets Syrian Battle Fields as Truce Takes Effect


Silence Greets Syrian Battle Fields as Truce Takes Effect
Described by the United Nations as the best hope for peace in five years of civil war, a cessation of hostilities appeared to hold for its first day as guns mostly fell silent in Syria and Russian air raids stopped on Saturday.
Fighting should cease so aid can reach civilians and talks can open to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and made 11 million homeless as agreed upon by the U.S.-Russian accord accepted by President Bashar al-Assad's government and many of his enemies.
Russia said it would suspend all flights over Syria for the first day to ensure no wrong targets were hit by mistake even as the country says it intends to continue strikes against areas held by Islamist fighters that are not covered by the truce.
Occasional government violations were reported by the rebels who warned that if unchecked, the breaches could lead to the agreement's collapse. Tere was strict denial from Assad government that the Syrian army was violating the truce agreement.
Several deadly attacks by Islamic State and rocket attacks near Damascus were described by the state media. But overall the level of violence was far reduced.
"Let's pray that this works because frankly this is the best opportunity we can imagine the Syrian people has had for the last five years in order to see something better and hopefully something related to peace," U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said at a midnight news conference in Geneva.
He called on the parties to show restraint and curb escalation and added that he expected occasional breaches of the agreement.
The agreement would be the most successful truce of the war so far if it holds even as it is the first of its kind to be attempted in four years.
The deal is less binding than a formal ceasefire and several weak spots I the deal has not been directly signed by the Syrian warring parties.
Powerful jihadist groups such as Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al Qaeda's branch in Syria are not covered in the deal.  While Nusra has called for redoubled attacks, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb in Hama province.
While the Syrian fear that Moscow and Damascus would use the garb of the exemptions of the agreement to justify attacks against them.
The battlefield in Syria has been dramatically changed ever since Russia joined the war in September with air strikes to prop up Assad and the truce is the culmination of new diplomatic efforts to end the immediate war.
The hope of the opposition of Assad for five years to topple him by force -- encouraged by Arab and Western states, have effectively been destroyed by Moscow's intervention.
While front lines were far quieter, there were violations that were taking place and if continued could lead to the "collapse of the agreement", said several rebel figures like Fares Bayoush, head of the Fursan al-Haqq rebel group which fights under the banner of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
"There are areas where the bombardment has stopped but there are areas where there are violations by the regime such as Kafr Zeita in Hama, via targeting with artillery, and likewise in Morek in northern Hama countryside," said the  rebel leader.