Syrian army declares temporary, nationwide truce

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian military declared a unilateral, three-day cease-fire for the entire country on Wednesday, 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 Friday, according to the state TV report.
It’s 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 group, are excluded from the cease-fire. The government of Bashar al-Assad considers all armed opposition to be terrorists.
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 the Islamic State and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front.
For weeks, it sharply reduced violence in much of the country. However, the exclusion of areas under the militants’ control opened the door for disagreements over who else was considered a terrorist group and would therefore be excluded from the cease-fire.
The February cease-fire finally collapsed with a government offensive in the northern province of Aleppo, where a coalition of armed opposition groups has strongholds and also cooperates with the Nusra Front.
Violence was already reported Wednesday.
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.
Pro-government forces are pressing on with their ground offensive on Mayda, in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, which they launched on Tuesday, al-Tayeb said. The pro-government forces have also continued the bombardment of the besieged suburb of Douma, he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said pro-government militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah group, have all but seized control of Mayda, an important supply route for the rebel-held suburbs.
In northern Aleppo, a province hotly contested between the government and an array of insurgent groups, activists reported reciprocal violence. Two children were killed when insurgent groups lobbed missiles into al-Zahraa, a predominantly Shiite town in the north. The Observatory said one person was killed and a media activist was wounded when warplanes struck in a rebel-controlled part of Aleppo city.
A rescue worker in the rebel-held part of Aleppo city, Bibars Meshal, said on Wednesday afternoon that barrel bombs struck Hraitan, an area north of the city.

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