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During First Day Of Syrian Truce, 'Cessation Of Hostilities' Mostly Honored

Syrians drive past government billboards in the capital of Damascus on Saturday, as a partial cease-fire — the first major truce of the five-year war — takes hold. Guns fell silent at midnight in suburbs around the capital and the bomb-scarred northern city of Aleppo.

Well into the first day of a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria, most of the parties involved appear to be abiding by the delicate truce.

From Turkey, NPR's Alice Fordham reported that after the agreement went into effect at midnight local time, a pause in fighting largely held overnight:

"In an rebel-held suburb of Damascus, a resident said the last regime bombs fell just before midnight, and then everything went quiet. The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it's calm, too, at the air base in the north from which Russian planes fly sorties in support of president Bashar al-Assad.

"Initial, isolated reports of gunfire and shelling indicated a level of violence far below what has become normal in Syria."

The parties to the deal anticipated it would not be wholly observed, and indeed, the quiet has not been absolute. Syria's state-run news agency reported some shelling by armed groups in Damascus during the day, according to The Associated Press, and rebel forces have alleged the Syrian government has breached the deal in some areas.

But overall, the wire service describes "relative calm." The lull in fighting arrived suddenly, after a period of increased violence across many regions.

As Merrit explained on Friday, the truce, which falls short of a full cease-fire doesn't include ISIS or the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, and permits strikes against those deemed to be terrorists:

"The temporary pause in fighting was brokered by the U.S. and Russia, and is meant to be a confidence-building measure to jump-start peace talks between the warring parties. It includes the Syrian government and the main opposition bloc.

" But it remains to be seen whether the "cessation" will have a tangible impact on the fighting that has raged in Syria for 5 years now."

The exclusion of the Islamic State from the deal is significant, since the group controls large areas of the country. Since the cessation of hostilities went into effect, ISIS has launched a new offensive in northern Syria and conducted at least one suicide bombing.

But even a partial truce could be significant. This is the first time in almost four years a nationwide cessation of hostilities has been attempted in Syria, our Newscast unit reports.

A task force of international observers will be monitoring the cease-fire and determining how to respond to violations.

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