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Syrian Military Declares 72-hour Truce across Country, but Fighting Continues | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Children walk past the rubble of damaged buildings on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

The Syrian military has unilaterally declared a 72-hour “regime of calm” covering the whole country from 1 a.m. on Wednesday (2200 GMT Tuesday), state media report, although fighting and air attacks have been reported since then.

The military high command said in a statement that “a regime of calm will be implemented across all territory of the Syrian Arab Republic for a period of 72 hours from 1 a.m. on July 6 until 2400 on July 8, 2016”.

The Syrian government uses the term “regime of calm” to denote a temporary ceasefire.

The truce covers the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. There was no indication that it had been agreed with any of the myriad groups opposing the government.

Syrian rebel group Jaish al Islam said in a statement that, despite the announced truce, government and allied forces had attacked the town of Maydaa, in the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus. Maydaa had been held by Jaish al Islam, which is part of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) representing the opposition at international peace talks.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday that government and allied forces had taken almost complete control of and that fighting continued. Syrian state media said the army and its allies had taken ground in Maydaa from “terrorists” in the area. The Syrian government describes all groups fighting against it as terrorists.

The Britain-based Observatory, which monitors the Syrian conflict, also said there had been rebel and government shelling in areas around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, and air strikes had hit towns in the northern Aleppo countryside on Wednesday.

A ceasefire brokered by foreign powers in February to facilitate talks to end the five-year civil war has mostly unraveled in areas where it took effect in the west of the country.

That truce was agreed with many opposition militias, but did not include the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front or ISIS.

Since then, the Syrian army and the Russian military, which supports head of Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad, have announced a number of temporary local truces in areas of intense fighting, for example in the city of Aleppo or near the capital Damascus.

But air strikes and fighting have often continued in spite of the declarations.

For his part, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday he hoped a 72-hour truce in Syria was “a harbinger” that more ambitious and long-lasting similar deals could be struck.

“We very much welcome the Syrian army declaration of 72-hours of quiet,” Kerry told a news conference in Tbilisi, adding that discussions were underway to try to extend the truce.

“We are trying very hard to grow these current discussions into a longer lasting … enforceable, accountable cessation of hostilities that could change the dynamics on the ground,” he said.