Shelling stalls Syria truce

DAMASCUS/BEIJING. – One day into the long-awaited ceasefire in Syria, truce was largely observed though sporadic shelling still took place, killing and wounding dozens. As main backers of the ceasefire, Russia and the United States have exchanged information as the two sides are consulting in Amman, Jordan, over how to uphold the truce. The Syrian government said it would obey the agreement, but would not stop fighting extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS).

According to Syrian media, the shelling mostly targeted the capital Damascus, Aleppo and Deir al-Zour. The Syrian Army General Command said rebels in Jobar and Douma neighbourhoods in the suburbs of Damascus fired mortars into the city just hours after the ceasefire went into effect.

It warned of consequences of such attacks and called on the people living in those neighbourhoods to pressure the militants from breaking the truce.

Despite the shelling, Damascenes’ mood to savour the peace was not dampened, as Xinhua reporters witnessed on Saturday in Damascus’ commercial Al-Qassa area that streets were once again packed with weekend shoppers.

“It’s difficult to remember a calm night throughout the last four years, but yesterday was different. Last night was so calm and this peaceful atmosphere has pushed people to go on streets today,” said Ahmad, a 30-year-old man from the neighbourhood.

Also enjoying the peace were Khitam and her friends, who were strolling on the street.

“We felt the old peace again, especially last night as we slept without hearing the rattling sound of shelling echoing,” Khitam said.

As Syrians are taking a breath, Russia and the United States are resorting to multiple measures to ensure the cease-fire will hold.

An official at the Russian Defence Ministry said on Saturday that the two powers are exchanging information concerning the ceasefire.

The shared information includes where the latest ceasefire is applied, where armed groups are deployed and where the ceasefire is breached, according to Sergei Rudskoi, the official.

Should ceasefire violations be confirmed, Moscow and Washington will take measures to de-escalate tensions, he said.

In addition to the exchange of information, the two sides have set up a hotline linking Moscow, Washington and Geneva to share intelligence.

Both the United States and Russia have shown sincerity in supporting the cease-fire, as Moscow has brought the Syrian government to the table, while Washington made sure the armed groups it supported abide by the agreement. – Xinhua.

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