Syria: Army and rebels declare ceasefire

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Damascus, Oct 26: Syria's army and main rebel force said they will cease fire on Friday, Oct 26 in line with an internationally backed truce during a Muslim holiday, but both reserved the right to respond to any aggression.

A peace initiative by UN and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi calls for a truce during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha marking the end of the hajj pilgrimage. It was backed this week by the United Nations Security Council and a spokesman for UN chief Ban Ki-moon said "the world is now watching" to make sure both sides stick by their commitment.

The United States expressed the hope both sides will respect the ceasefire. "What we are hoping and expecting is that they will not just talk the talk of ceasefire but that they will walk the walk, beginning with the regime," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The army announced it would adhere to the ceasefire in a statement read on television. "On the occasion of Eid al-Adha, military operations will cease on Syrian territory as of Friday morning, until Monday the 29th," it said. But it also said the army would react if "armed terrorist groups continue to fire on civilians and government troops, attack public and private property and use car bombs and improvised explosive devices."

It also warned of a response if rebels reinforce their current positions or receive ammunition and to any fighters crossing from neighbouring countries. The Free Syrian Army, chief among many rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces, responded positively soon afterwards, saying it too would lay down its weapons as long as regime troops adhere to the ceasefire.

"We will respect the ceasefire from tomorrow morning if the Syrian army does the same," said General Mustafa al-Sheikh of the FSA, which had previously said it doubts Damascus would stand by any commitment. 


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