Syrian army today declared a 48- hour ceasefire in the southern city of Daraa, bringing a cautious calm after days of heavy fighting. In a statement, the army’s general command said the truce went into effect at noon local time “in support of local reconciliation efforts”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor of the war, reported a cautious calm in the hours after the truce was announced. Daraa is among the areas included in a plan for “de- escalation zones” agreed by regime backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey earlier this year. But recent weeks have seen heavy clashes in Daraa city and the surrounding area, with civilians among those caught in fighting and bombardment.
Rebels control around 60 percent of Daraa city, and the province as a whole is one of the last remaining bastions of opposition forces in the country. In Washington, the US State Department said “we welcome any initiative to reduce tensions and violence in southern Syria”.
It urged Damascus “to live up to its own stated commitment during this ceasefire initiative”. “The opposition should similarly halt attacks to allow the ceasefire to endure, and hopefully be extended,” the statement added. There was no immediate official confirmation that the opposition agreed to the truce but the quiet in the aftermath of the army announcement suggested hostilities had halted on both sides.
Syria’s government has pursued a series of so-called “national reconciliation” agreements with rebels in different parts of the country, including recently near the capital. Under the deals, rebels who surrender are generally offered safe passage to opposition-held territory elsewhere in the country.
The opposition criticises the deals as a “starve or surrender” tactic, saying they are forced into the agreements after heavy regime bombardment or siege. But the government has touted the deals as the best way to end the six-year war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.