Dawn Quiet Reported in Syria

A UN-backed ceasefire has taken tentative hold in Syria as activists report quiet in key conflict cities; no troop pullback thus far.

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Gabe Kahn,

Protesters Demand Ceasefire in Idlib, Syria o
Protesters Demand Ceasefire in Idlib, Syria o

Dawn broke over Syria on Thursday with no immediate reports of fighting in the country as a promised ceasefire deadline by Damascus appeared to have been met.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights did report the sound of explosions in the town of Zabadani, close to the border with Lebanon, shortly after the 0600 GMT+2 deadline passed.

However, it remains unclear what caused the blasts and a resident in the town told Reuters she heard nothing after the deadline. Activists in the cities of Hama, Homs and Damascus also reported calm.

Syria's Defense Ministry had pledged on Wednesday that it would halt operations on Thursday morning, but insisted it would confront "any assault" by armed groups.

The rebel Free Syrian Army, a fighting force determined to bring down Assad, has said it will abide by the cease-fire. But the SFA is not well organized, and there deep concerns some groups may exploit the chaos.

Additionally, there have been no reports of troops and tanks pulling back from urban population centers, which is a key condition of the six-point peace plan brokered by UN special envoy Kofi Annan.

Under Annan’s plan, the cease-fire is to be followed by the deployment of an observer mission and negotiations between Assad’s government and the opposition on a political transition.

Vicious attacks on opposition strongholds over the last week – rife with reports of fire-bombings, continued shelling and summary executions by Syrian troops – have fueled doubts Damascus is committed to a truce.

Annan, while visiting Iran has said that only a cessation in fighting by both sides will result in an improved situation on the ground and allow the two sides to meet in the middle.

Analysts say the ceasefire holds huge risks for President Bashar al-Assad should he completely adhere to it as masses of protesters are likely to flood the streets should he pull his forces back to their barracks.

Some activists have expressed fear that Assad will seek to undermine the ceasefire by employing his pro-regime “shabiha” militias and pervasive security apparatus to maintain order while at the same time quartering the regular military.

Even if the ceasefire holds, it remains unclear how to proceed should the UN-backed peace plan fail to yield results. After 13 months of violence and at least 9,100 civilian deaths Syria stands on the brink of internal collapse.