Truce Takes Hold in Aleppo But Fighting Goes on Elsewhere in Syria

People walk on the rubble of damaged buildings after an airstrike in the rebel held area of Aleppo's Baedeen district, May 3. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail

AMMAN, May 5  – Relative calm prevailed on Thursday in the Syrian city of Aleppo following a U.S.-Russian agreement to extend a cessation of hostilities that had crumbled after nearly two weeks of violence between rebels and government forces that killed dozens.

Syrian state media said the army would abide by a “regime of calm” in the city that came into effect at 1 a.m. (2200 GMT on Wednesday) for 48 hours.

But the army again blamed Islamist insurgents for violating the agreement overnight by what it called indiscriminate shelling of some government-held residential areas of the divided city.

President Bashar Al Assad said on Thursday his country would not accept less than an outright victory against rebels in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and across Syria, state media reported.

In a telegram sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin in which he thanked Moscow for its military support, Assad said the army would not accept less than “attaining final victory” and “crushing the aggression” in its fight against the rebels.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one person was killed in rebel shelling overnight of the Midan neighborhood on the government side of the city. State media said rockets hit the New Aleppo district.

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

People in several districts ventured out onto the streets where more shops than normal had opened, the resident of al Shaar neighborhood said.

Another resident said civilians in several districts sensed a general trend towards calm.

“From last night it was positive and my wife went out to shop and shops opened and people breathed. We did not hear the shelling and bombing we had gotten accustomed to,” Sameh Tutunji, a merchant said.

“Enough of this daily killing after more than 10 days,” he added.

A rebel source also said that despite intermittent firing across the city’s main front lines, fighting had subsided and no army shelling of residential areas had been heard.

The only intense fighting reported was in the southern Aleppo countryside near the town of Khan Touman, where Syria’s al Qaeda offshoot Nusra Front is dug in close to where Iranian backed militias maintain a stronghold, a rebel source said.

Rebels also said Syrian helicopters dropped barrel bombs on rebel held Dahyat al-Rashdeen al Junobi, situated northwest of the city and near Jamiyat al Zahraa area that saw a major rebel ground assault Wednesday that failed after their positions were pounded by warplanes.

The army however said rebels continued shelling of Jamiyat al Zahraa after they were routed.

The surge in bloodshed in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the civil war, wrecked the first major “cessation of hostilities” agreement of the war, sponsored by Washington and Moscow, which had held since February.

A spokesman for the mainstream Syrian opposition said the Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC) supported the deal but wanted a cessation of hostilities that would cover all of Syria, not just limited to Aleppo. It blamed the government for violating the truce.

Separately, there was no let-up in fighting in other parts of Syria. Syrian state media said at least six people were killed and scores injured in a village in the eastern Homs countryside where Islamic State militants operate after a suicide bomber blew himself in the centre. It did not identify the bomber.

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