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Syrian ceasefire still alive but not solid enough for aid to get through

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By Mark Davis
Syrian ceasefire still alive but not solid enough for aid to get through

Sporadic shelling continues in eastern suburbs of Damascus but a fragile truce between government forces and rebels in Syria is still holding – just.

Russia says it is using its influence with the Syrian government to keep the ceasefire alive although admits there are “mutual recriminations.”

Despite ongoing fighting, there had been no reported civilian deaths for two days after the announcement of the US-Russia brokered ceasefire on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

However, civilians were reported killed on Thursday, while on Friday three more are said to have died in air strikes in Idlib province.

The Kremlin said it hopes the US would use its influence with the rebel groups to ensure they respect the ceasefire. Moscow has accused the US of not doing enough to make those rebel groups it is supporting distance themselves from al-Qaeda associated jihadist groups such as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

North of Damascus, in Aleppo, the rebels say government troops have not yet delivered on a promise to move away from the Castello Road, which serves as a front line in the battle for the city.

There are reports that hundreds of protesters from villages in government-held territory moved to block the Castello Road; their aim was said to be to prevent aid reaching rebel-held areas in eastern Aleppo until there are guarantees that goods will also reach government-controlled communities.

The truce is vital if humanitarian aid is to get through to those who need it. So far that is not the case and along the northern border with Turkey aid convoys remain blocked.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, told a press conference in Geneva:

“We are as ready to go as we can possibly be. The modalities for ensuring safe passage have not yet been cleared and given to us so that we can move. We know that there is at least a quarter of a million people in eastern Aleppo who are potentially all of them in need of some kind of aid.”

The ceasefire began on Monday and could, if all goes well be renewed for another 48 hours at midnight on Friday.

Just before that deadline the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.