Thu, April 12, 2012
World > Middle East

Calmness blankets Syria as cease-fire activated

2012-04-12 09:00:26 GMT2012-04-12 17:00:26(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

DAMASCUS, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Cautious calm prevailed most of Syria Thursday after the UN backed cease-fire deadline came into effect at 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT), while the opposition inside Syria hailed the government's move as a goodwill signal.

"An hour after the cease-fire went into effect, complete calmness prevailed all areas," according to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Head of the Observatory Rami Abdul-Rahman reportedly said that all hotspots of Syria were calm Thursday over the hours that followed the deadline, citing situation in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, northern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, eastern Deir al-Zour province, the capital Damascus along with its suburbs, and southern province of Daraa.

"Nothing is happening in these hotspots so far," he said.

A day earlier, the Syrian Defense Ministry declared the halt of military operation in Syrian cities as of Thursday, but reserved the right to respond to any attacks and aggressions.

The ministry said in a statement that the armed forces "after fulfilling its successful missions in combating criminal acts by armed terrorist groups and spreading the state's power on all territories, has been decided to halt those tasks as of Thursday morning."

The sources added the armed forces would remain alert to retaliate against any attack by armed terrorist groups against civilians, law-enforcement agents, armed troops and against all public and private properties, in order to protect the security of the homeland and citizen.

However, the Observatory said explosions were heard in the resort town of Zabadani, just outside Damascus, after the deadline but no further details were given.

Also, Syria's private media reported that a car exploded in the Damascus suburb of Jaramana before dawn Thursday, causing no injuries. There was no immediate official word on the circumstances of the blast, but preliminary speculations indicated to an act of terrorism.

In the meantime, the Syrian opposition at home hailed the government's troops pullout announcement.

Hasan Abdul-Azim, head of the National Coordination Body, told Xinhua that "the government should couple its talks with actions on the ground because halting violence has become a pressing demand and a main prelude for an awaited solution."

The leading opponent underlined the importance of Annan's plan, saying "it has the support of Syria's allies." He suggested that any incompliance from the government side would isolate Syria even from its close allies.

For his side, Abdul-Aziz Khair, another member of the National Coordination Body, hailed the government announcement and said that "it's a very important step to make Annan's mission a success. "

Khair called on all concerned parties to commit themselves to the plan to pave the way for a political settlement and spare the country from dangerous repercussions.

Luai Hussain, who heads the opposition party Building Syria State, deemed the announcement as a "goodwill signal." He said the new measure should be coupled with the release of all political prisoners, however, in a phone interview with Xinhua, Hussain expressed skepticism that the Syrian government could use self defense as a pretext to re-launce violence against civilians.

The cease-fire was also welcomed by the Free Syrian Army rebel forces, which has pledged to abide by the truce and halt its attacks on government troops.

Thursday's cease-fire came in compliance with the deadline given by the United Nations for the implementation of a truce brokered by UN-Arab League joint special envoy Kofi Annan to solve the Syrian crisis politically and save the country from plunging into an all-out civil war.

The six-point plan calls for a troop withdrawal from populated areas by April 10 and a cease-fire by April 12. The plan aims to pave the way for a political settlement to the 13-month old unrest against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian crisis has become more militarized as civilians and alleged army defectors took up arms to defend themselves against the alleged government's crackdown on opposition protesters.

Syria is facing growing international pressure to end the alleged crackdown on opposition strongholds as the UN said more than 9,000 people have been killed over the yearlong crisis, but the Syrian government blames the turmoil on armed groups working out a foreign conspiracy and said 6,044 have died, including 2,566 soldiers and police.

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