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Syrian Capital Calm After UN Cease-Fire02/25 10:41

   BEIRUT (AP) -- The Syrian capital and its embattled eastern suburbs were 
relatively calm Sunday despite some violence that killed at least three people, 
following the U.N. Security Council's unanimous approval of a resolution 
demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria, opposition activists and residents 
of Damascus said.

   The activists reported low-level clashes on the southern edge of the 
rebel-held suburbs, known as eastern Ghouta, and two airstrikes late on 
Saturday night, shortly after the resolution was adopted. During the day 
Sunday, some more shelling and airstrikes were reported by activists in eastern 
Ghouta.

   The relative calm came after a week of intense airstrikes and shelling that 
killed more than 500 people in eastern Ghouta and left dozens dead or wounded 
in the government-held Damascus, which rebels pelted with mortar shells.

   "This has been the calmest night since last Sunday," said Rami Abdurrahman 
who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, referring to 
the start of the bombing campaign on Feb. 19.

   The Observatory said Sunday's shelling killed three people and wounded 27 in 
several areas in eastern Ghouta. The opposition's Syrian Civil Defense, also 
known as White Helmets, said the three were killed in the towns of Saqba, Beit 
Sawa and Hammouriyeh.

   State news agency SANA said insurgents breached the truce by firing 15 
shells Sunday on government-held areas on the edge of Ghouta.

   Ghouta-based opposition activist Anas al-Dimashqi said the night was calm 
but warplanes and drones were flying over rebel-held areas. He said several 
explosions were heard Sunday in Ghouta.

   Dr. Sakhr al-Dimashqi, a surgeon at a clinic in Ghouta, told The Associated 
Press that several shells hit some towns in the suburbs, adding that they 
received six wounded people at the clinic where he works.

   "The shelling today is not as intense as over the past week," he said.

   The two largest and most powerful rebel factions in Ghouta, Failaq al-Rahman 
and Army of Islam issued statements saying they will abide by the cease-fire 
unless they are forced to fire in self-defense. Both called for the "immediate 
delivery" of emergency aid.

   The resolution excludes members of the Islamic State group and 
al-Qaida-linked fighters. Ghouta is also home to a few hundred members of the 
al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee.

   Russia's Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the fight against IS and 
al-Qaida's affiliate will continue, despite what it described as attempts by 
certain external players to engage "international terrorists and groups of 
opposition militants joining them to implement plans that are still nurtured to 
overthrow the legitimate authorities of Syria and dismember the country."

   It added that "the terrorists won't get any respite."

   Damascus residents said there's more traffic in the streets, compared to 
previous days and most schools and universities were open on Sunday. They said 
some private schools were still closed, especially those close to the front 
lines with Ghouta.

   Some residents of the capital said they were unhappy with the truce, adding 
they believe the rebels will violate it and that the Syrian army should crush 
the gunmen outside the capital.

   "The army has given them many truces, more than they deserve and the result 
was more shells," said Damascus resident Abdul-Razzak Khaleifah, 37. "The army 
has the right to retaliate to defend the homeland and the civilians."

   Saturday's vote at the United Nations came after the vote was delayed from 
Friday. Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia had repeatedly called an 
immediate cease-fire unrealistic.

   In a bid to get Russian support, sponsors Kuwait and Sweden amended the 
draft resolution late Friday to drop a demand that the cease-fire take effect 
72 hours after the resolution's adoption.

   After two hours of additional negotiations on Saturday, the Security Council 
unanimously approved the resolution demanding a 30-day cease-fire across Syria 
"without delay" to deliver humanitarian aid to millions and evacuate the 
critically ill and wounded.

   After the vote, many council members urged stepped-up efforts to ensure a 
cease-fire and get assistance to millions in need.

   Russia has been a main backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad since the 
country's conflict began seven years ago. In 2015, Moscow joined the war on 
Assad's side tipping the balance of power in his favor.

   In northern Syria, the Observatory and the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV said 
Turkish troops shelled the Kurdish enclave of Afrin where Turkey and Syrian 
opposition fighters it backs have been on the offensive since Jan. 20.

   The Turkish military and their allies took three more villages from the 
U.S.-backed Kurdish militia near the town of Afrin on Sunday, according to the 
Turkey's official news agency. The military announced one Turkish soldier was 
killed on Saturday, bringing the army's death toll to 33 since the launch of 
the Afrin operation last month.

   The main Kurdish militia, known as YPG, said in a statement that it will 
abide by the U.N. cease-fire but will continue fighting as usual against IS.


(KA)

 
 
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