Syria's fledgling truce enters second day

The truce, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is seen as a crucial step towards ending a conflict that has claimed 270,000 lives and displaced more than half the population.

PTI| Updated: Feb 28, 2016, 20:43 PM IST

Damascus: Syria's fragile ceasefire entered a second day on Sunday with battlezones still largely quiet for the first time in five years, despite sporadic incidents including several air strikes.

The truce, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is seen as a crucial step towards ending a conflict that has claimed 270,000 lives and displaced more than half the population.

The convoluted patchwork of territorial control in Syria, wrapped up in a brutal civil war since 2011, has complicated efforts to implement the deal.

Warplanes, believed to be either Syrian or Russian, bombed seven villages today in the northern province of Aleppo and Hama in the centre, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It was unclear if the raids hit areas covered by the ceasefire, which excludes territory held by the Islamic State jihadist group and al Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

According to Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, only one of the villages, Kafr Hamra in Aleppo province, is controlled by Al-Nusra and the others are in the hands of non-jihadist rebels.

Elsewhere the situation remained mostly calm, according to AFP reporters.

In Aleppo, Syria's second city, residents took to the streets to do their shopping after a night without any sound of fighting or air strikes, a correspondent said.

"There's something strange in this silence. We used to go to sleep and wake up with the sound of raids and artillery," said Abu Omar, 45, who runs a bakery in rebel-held east Aleppo.

A task force set up to monitor the deal described it yesterday as largely successful on the first day.

"The United Nations, the United States and Russia have made a positive assessment of the first hours of the cessation of hostilities," a Western diplomat said after a meeting of the International Syria Support Group in Geneva.

The UN reported "some incidents" in apparent violation of the truce, but "they have been defused", he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's office said he and US Secretary of State John Kerry had "hailed" the ceasefire in a phone call, and discussed ways of improving cooperation between their militaries.

UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has said peace talks will resume on March 7 if the ceasefire prevails and more aid is delivered - a key sticking point in negotiations.