Aleppo ‘relatively calm’ as 48-hour ceasefire begins

Relative calm prevailed Aleppo after Washington and Moscow have agreed to press the Assad regime and opposition forces to extend a ceasefire deal to the city.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A child walks past damaged buildings after an air strike in the opposition held area of Aleppo's Baedeen district, Syria, May 3, 2016.

Updated May 5, 2016

Relative calm prevailed in Aleppo after the United States and Russia have agreed to extend a cessation of hostilities in Syria to include the war torn city after nearly two weeks of violence killed hundreds.

A resident in the opposition held eastern part of the city said although jets were flying overnight, there were none of the intense raids seen during more than 10 days of intense aerial bombing.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement that it is critical that Russia redoubles efforts to press Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad to comply with the new arrangement while Washington does its part with Syrian opposition forces.

"Our objective remains, and has always been, a single nationwide cessation of hostilities covering all of Syria - not a series of local truces," Toner said.

A Syrian man waits to fill jerricans with water in front of destroyed buildings on May 2, 2016, in Aleppo's Bab al Hadid neighbourhood which was targeted recently by regime air strikes.

Since the cessation of hostilities went into effect at midnight in Syria, "we have seen an overall decrease in violence in these areas, even though there have been reports of continued fighting in some locations," Toner said.

Another statement followed Toner’s words urging collaboration with the political processing Syria. UN political chief Jeffrey Feltman invited "parties to abide by this immediately and comprehensively" and stressed the necessity of increased aid deliveries in the area.

“In order to be credible the next round of negotiations should be supported by tangible progress on the ground in terms of a consolidated cessation of hostilities and increased humanitarian access.” Toner said.

The ceasefire has been welcomed by the regime and prominent opposition groups.

Regime controlled Syrian state media stated that the regime forces would abide the temporary truce in the city that came into effect at 1am (2200 GMT on Wednesday) for 48 hours.

A prominent opposition leader also said on Wednesday, main opposition groups would also set up a task force to defuse tensions in Aleppo.

Mohammad Alloush, a member of the Jaish al Islam, the main group in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, said that his group joined the new force to avoid the spread warfare among opposition groups.

"This force will arbitrate disputes so that our blood is not spilled and to avoid side conflicts that benefit the regime and to focus on the regime and DAESH," Alloush said.

Aleppo has been the scene of the worst surge in fighting in recent days, wrecking the first major ceasefire of the five-year-old civil war, sponsored by the United States and Russia, which had held since late February.

UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura met with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva on Monday and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday.

Upon returning to Washington on Tuesday, Kerry said he believed a ceasefire deal could still be restored in Syria despite escalating violence and warned Assad of "repercussions" unless he sticks to the agreement.

Kerry said it would take a few days until commanders in the field had been notified and the truce took effect.

TRTWorld, Reuters