Syrian army declares temporary, nationwide truce
DAMASCUS – The Associated PressThe Syrian military declared a unilateral, three-day cease-fire for the entire country on July 6, with the start of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holidays that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, state media reported.
The truce is to expire at midnight July 8, according to the state TV report.
It is the first time Syrian authorities have declared a blanket truce for the entire country. It was unclear if militant groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), are excluded from the cease-fire. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad considers all armed opposition to be terrorists.
The Free Syrian Army rebel alliance said on Juy 6 that it would abide by the cease-fire.
“We, the armed revolutionary groups in Syria, welcome any effort towards a ceasefire for the happy Eid al-Fitr period. We declare we will abide by it so long as the other side does the same,” said the statement, posted on the Twitter account of a prominent Syrian rebel figure, according to Reuters.
Kerry welcomes truce declaration
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the same day welcomed the 72-hour cease-fire but said he was working with Russia and others to try to transform it into a lasting truce.
“We very much welcome the Syrian army’s declaration of a period of quiet in honor and celebration of Eid,” AFP quoted Kerry as telling reporters during an official visit to Georgia in the run-up to the annual NATO summit.
“And we very much hope it will be honored by all parties and it will hold,” he said, adding that the truce had been a “matter of discussion” within the International Syria Support Group, which Washington co-chairs with Moscow.
The last truce - a high-profile “cessation of hostilities” brokered by the United States and Russia - was declared on Feb. 27 and excluded militant groups such as ISIL and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.
Violence was already reported on July 6.
A powerful armed rebel group, which is in control of areas in the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, said there was no cease-fire on the ground.
Yasser al-Tayeb, a spokesman for the Army of Islam group, said clashes with pro-government forces have not let up.
ISIL claims bomb killing 16 in northeastern Syria
Earlier in the day, ISIL said it carried out a suicide bombing that killed 16 people in a mainly Kurdish city in northeastern Syria.
The July 5 blast in Hasakeh struck outside a bakery in a Kurdish neighborhood where a large crowd had gathered as they prepared to break the last daytime fast of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The bomber infiltrated the Salihiah district then blew up his explosives belt in the middle of the crowd, ISIL said in a statement on social media.
A Kurdish police source said the bomber, who was on a motorbike, also wounded 40 people.
Fifteen of them were in critical condition, the Syrian Observatory for Human Right said.
Parts of Hasakeh remain under Syrian government control but most of the city and nearly all of the surrounding province are held by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).