Damascus / AFP
The United Nations prepared to deliver aid to thousands of besieged civilians in Syria on Monday as a fragile ceasefire entered its third day largely intact despite accusations of violations.
UN humanitarian coordinator Yacoub El Hillo said the world body hoped to take advantage of the first major truce in five years of conflict to distribute supplies to an extra 154,000 people living in besieged areas over the next five days.
A successful truce would also create a more favourable backdrop for peace talks that collapsed in acrimony in early February as a Russia-backed regime offensive in northern Syria caused tens of thousands to flee.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura aims to relaunch the talks on March 7 if the ceasefire lasts and more aid is
The main opposition grouping on Sunday described the ceasefire as “positive” but lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations and foreign governments about breaches.
“We have violations here and there, but in general it is a lot better than before and people are comfortable,” said Salem Al Meslet, spokesman for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations
Meslet said the opposition would like to see the truce “last forever” and that it was the “responsibility of the United States to stop any violations”.
An HNC letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian regime and its allies of committing “24 violations with artillery shelling and five ground operations… in 26 areas held by the moderate opposition”.
It said the breaches had killed 29 people and wounded dozens.
The HNC has said it did not receive any maps of areas included in the ceasefire or documents explaining the monitoring mechanism.
Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, said on Sunday that those maps were still being “kept secret”.
The ceasefire does not apply to territory held by the Islamic State group and Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra Front.
The extremists of IS last week cut the government’s sole supply route to territory it holds in and around second city Aleppo. After several days of deadly clashes, the army succeeded in reopening it on Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
At least 26 pro-government fighters and 14 IS extremists were killed in the fighting around the town of Khanasser, the Britain-based monitoring group said on Sunday.
Russia, which has waged a five-month bombing campaign to support Assad, accused “moderate” rebels and extremists of nine ceasefire violations.
But “on the whole, the ceasefire regime in Syria is being implemented,” Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, head of Moscow’s coordination centre in Syria, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
In Damascus, student Mehdi Al Ani spent on Sunday at his university’s cafe with friends.