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'Significant drop' in violence after Syria truce, says UN

The agreement aims to bring an end to fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's loyalists and a wide range of rebels, excluding jihadist forces. Photograph: (Getty)

Damascus, Damascus Governorate, Syria Sep 14, 2016, 03.14 AM (IST)
Twenty four hours after the truce brokered by the US and Russia came into effect, violence in Syria has dropped down significantly, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday. 

The ceasefire is the second attempt this year to halt the five-year-old war that has ravaged Syria. The agreement aims to bring an end to fighting between President Bashar al-Assad's loyalists and a wide range of rebels, excluding jihadist forces like the Islamic State (IS) group. 

Although there was some violence after sunset on Monday, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it did not receive a single report of civilians or combatants being killed in any area.

“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 said.

"Sources on the ground, which do matter, including inside Aleppo city, said the situation has dramatically improved with no air strikes."

AFP reported that Damascus and central Syria were also calm.

However, there were some reports of clashes between government and opposition forces around Harasta and fighting in Quneitra between government forces and the Nusra Front, a group that is excluded from the ceasefire.

Disengaging armed opposition groups that are observing the truce from those who are not – especially the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militant group, would be “quite a challenge”, De Mistura said today. 
 
"But what is missing still is the famous authorisation letters from the government," he said. "We have not yet received those authorisation letters but we are eagerly hoping and expecting the government to issue them very soon."

De Mistura said the agreement did not contain anything about the release of detainees, which the opposition has said in the past is one of their key demands, with tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in jail.

"For all the doubts that remain, and there will be challenges in the days to come, this plan has a chance to work,"  said Viktor Poznikhir, a senior Russian military officer said of the deal he agreed on Friday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

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

(WION with inputs from agencies)
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