A temporary truce in the embattled northern Syrian city of Aleppo, in place since midnight Thursday, was extended for another 72 hours starting midnight on Saturday, just hours before the initial “regime of silence” was scheduled to expire, the Russian defense ministry said late Friday.
“Formations of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist grouping continue performing provocations aimed at breaking the ‘Silence regime’ in Aleppo,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement, referring to the al Qaeda-linked militant group that, along with the Islamic State group, has rejected all diplomatic efforts to end the protracted civil war in Syria. “Within the last 24 hours, Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists took efforts to block Aleppo from the south. Having taken advantage of the ‘silence regime,’ terrorists launched offensive on Han Tuman, al-Halidiyah and al-Hamra. In northern regions of the Latakia province, terrorists of this group carried out mortar and artillery shelling against positions of the government troops.”
The U.S. State Department, which has called for an “enduring” ceasefire in the war-torn region, also confirmed the truce extension.
“The cessation of hostilities has reduced violence in Aleppo, and the United States is committed to keeping it in place as long as possible,” State Department spokesman John Kirby reportedly said a statement released Friday. “While we welcome this recent extension, our goal is to get to a point where we no longer have to count the hours and that the cessation of hostilities is fully respected across Syria.”
Although the ceasefire has brought a semblance of calm on the streets of Aleppo city, fighting has continued unabated in the surrounding districts. On Friday, the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights documented the deaths of 73 people at the hands of Jaish al-Fatah — an alliance of militant groups that includes Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.
Meanwhile, a much broader nation-wide ceasefire, brokered by the U.S. and Russia in February, has all but collapsed, with the U.S. and rebel groups backed by it accusing Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is supported by Russia, of repeatedly breaching the truce by targeting civilians in rebel-held areas.
“We want to see the entire country safe and secure for the Syrian people. We want to see the cessation of hostilities, which applied to the entire country, actually executed for the entire country — implemented across the entire country,” Kirby said Friday. “What matters is that we have seen a reduction in violence and that — and I’m not overstating this by any stretch, because Syria remains a dangerous place and there’s still a lot of suffering — but that for some Syrians in some places, life has gotten better.”