Uneasy calm as Aleppo truce takes hold

Rescue teams in the rubble of a building in Aleppo. 3 May 2016Image copyright

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Civilians have borne the brunt of air strikes and bombardments in Aleppo

An uneasy calm has been reported across the divided Syrian city of Aleppo after a partial truce came into effect.

Some residents said they had ventured on to the streets for the first time in days after the 48-hour “regime of calm” began early on Thursday.

However, state media and monitors said one person had died in shelling by rebels overnight.

Fighting in Aleppo has threatened a nationwide cessation of hostilities aimed at bolstering peace talks.

Nearly 300 people have died in the past two weeks as pro-government forces and rebels battled for control of Syria’s second city.

“The general command of the Syrian army declared a period of calm in Aleppo for 48 hours starting from one o-clock in the morning on Thursday (22:00 GMT Wednesday),” Syrian state TV reported.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped to broker the latest truce with Russia and the UN, called for all parties, “the regime and the opposition alike”, to abide by the agreement.

He has also urged rebel fighters to distance themselves from the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front which, along with so-called Islamic State, is not included in the cessation agreement.

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Jordan says about 5,000 Syrians fleeing violence in Aleppo have arrived at the border in the past three days

The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned that a failure of the overall cessation of hostilities would be “catastrophic” and could send 400,000 more people heading for refuge at the Turkey border.

Jordan has reported a surge of refugees fleeing violence in Aleppo in recent days.

Residents in several war-torn districts of Aleppo reported a sense of calm returning on Thursday.

“From last night it was positive and my wife went out to shop, and shops opened and people breathed,” said trader Sameh Tutunji.

“We did not hear the shelling and bombing we had become accustomed to. Enough of this daily killing after more than 10 days,” he added.

Another resident said military planes had been heard overnight but there had been no bombardment.

Media captionJohn Simpson is taken to territory captured with the help of Russian military

The Syrian army, however, accused rebels of shelling government-held areas while UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one person had died when rebels shelled the Midan district overnight.

A spokesman for the main opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said it supported the latest deal but wanted a cessation of hostilities that would cover all of Syria, not just Aleppo.

Late last week, the Syrian army announced “regimes of calm” covering Damascus and some of its suburbs and parts of the north-western coastal province of Latakia.

However, those unilateral truces excluded Aleppo and the recent violence there has been the most intense for more than a year.

The Syrian Observatory said rebels had advanced into government-held western districts on Tuesday night but were pushed back by Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, Mr Kerry warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against trying to “carve out Aleppo and carve out a section of the country”.

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