RELIEF: Syrian children play outside their home in a Damascus suburb after the ceasefire came into effect.
RELIEF: Syrian children play outside their home in a Damascus suburb after the ceasefire came into effect. MOHAMMED BADRAEPA

Rare calm in Syria as ceasefire begins

SYRIA has enjoyed a rare spell of relative calm as Russian war planes were grounded and fighting halted in much of the country in the first day of an unprecedented international truce.

There were reports of a string of violations, a car bombing and clashes with Islamist State jihadists but, as darkness fell on Saturday night, activists, analysts and diplomats voiced surprise that a ceasefire widely expected to fail had exceeded expectations.

Many remained deeply sceptical that the pause would hold but others expressed tentative optimism that it could be a turning point in a devastating five-year war that has killed at least 250,000 people, created millions of refugees and destabilised the entire region.

The UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that the early indications were "quite reassuring", adding "The first night and first day certainly gave the impression that every

one is serious in their commitment to keep on going with this cessation of hostilities."

After a day of intense fighting and heavy bloodshed on Friday, the deal struck by the United States, Russia and 15 other major powers began at midnight Syrian time.



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