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Syrian Cease-fire Continues to Hold

  • VOA News

Fighters from the Democratic Forces of Syria walk outside a prison which they say belonged to Islamic State fighters, in al-Shadadi town, Hasaka province, Syria, Feb. 26, 2016.

Fighters from the Democratic Forces of Syria walk outside a prison which they say belonged to Islamic State fighters, in al-Shadadi town, Hasaka province, Syria, Feb. 26, 2016.

The Syrian cease-fire has brought relative calm to much of the country for the first time in years.

The U.S.-and-Russia-brokered truce that began Saturday was not without some incidents of violence, but the U.N. envoy for Syria says the first day of the cease-fire was "quite reassuring."

Staffan de Mistura said some episodes of violence were expected after five years of conflict. He added, however, that "the first night and first day certainly gave the impression that everyone is serious in their commitment to keep on going with this cessation of hostilities."

The truce, brokered by the United States and Russia, took effect at midnight Friday Damascus time (2200 UTC). The Syrian opposition’s umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee, said in a statement that 97 groups promised to take part in the cease-fire.

The truce does not apply to Islamic State and the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front terror groups.

Obama: IS losing ground

U.S. President Barack Obama said Saturday in his weekly address the Islamic State's territory in Syria is shrinking. He said the number of fighters on the battlefield is dwindling and it has become harder for the jihadists "to recruit and replenish their ranks."

The United States is working with "partners around the world" to discredit the ideology the Islamic State uses "to radicalize, recruit and inspire people to violence," Obama said.

Less than an hour before the temporary truce went into effect, members of the U.N. Security council unanimously endorsed the deal in New York.

A Syrian boy holds a toy gun as he plays soccer with others between destroyed buildings with graffiti that reads "Syria al-Assad," in the old city of Homs, Syria, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

A Syrian boy holds a toy gun as he plays soccer with others between destroyed buildings with graffiti that reads "Syria al-Assad," in the old city of Homs, Syria, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016.

The cessation of hostilities applies to all of Syria, except for areas where the so-called Islamic State and another armed group, Jabat al-Nusra, operate, as well as terrorist groups already designated by the Security Council.

Responsibility for addressing violations falls to the United States and Russia, co-chairs of the International Support Group for Syria (ISSG) – not the U.N.

Obama said the United States will do everything it can to make the agreement hold.

On Friday, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States has received assurances from Russia that it would not launch strikes against the "moderate opposition" in Syria after the truce took effect. He called it "put up or shut up time" for Russia to show whether it is serious about stopping the fighting.

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