Syrian ceasefire effective in first hours, some violations reported

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Damascus, Dec 30 (IANS) The first hours of the latest ceasefire in Syria between the government and insurgent forces have passed in relative calm with no civilian deaths, a British NGO said on Friday.

However, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), said that only two hours after the ceasefire came into effect on Thursday midnight, violent clashes broke out between Syrian regime forces and rebel groups in the environs of Tella al Biyu, north of Hama province, Efe news reported.

The fighting resulted in the death of at least six fighters loyal to the Damascus regime.

The SOHR also reported sporadic fighting in the Western Guta area and that some shots were fired by government forces in the town of Sakik, south of Idlib province, under the control of rebel militias.

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) denounced some brief ceasefire violations and questioned the Syrian government’s capacity to keep its pro-government popular militias under control, who were fighting shoulder to shoulder alongside the regular Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

According to the FSA, over 40 Syrian paramilitary or self-defence forces and foreign volunteers were fighting in support of Al-Assad’s troops.

The ceasefire agreement, hammered out between Russia and Turkey, was backed by the Syrian Army’s General Command, the Syrian Armed Forces and rebel factions.

In the hours prior to the ceasefire’s enforcement, Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al Mualem during an interview on Syrian state television said the ceasefire was “a real opportunity to reach a political solution to the conflict.”

Al Mualem said it could “end the bloodbath in Syria and seek a future for the country.”

The ceasefire aims to lead the way towards a new round of peace talks, scheduled to begin towards the end of January 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

–IANS

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