'Huge drop' in civilian deaths after Syria truce: Monitor

AFP , Thursday 3 Mar 2016

Syrian children carry sacks of wheat, provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), in Kafr Batna, in the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on March 1, 2016 (Photo: AFP)

Twenty-four civilians have been killed in the first five days of a landmark truce in parts of Syria, a sharp drop for a war where dozens die daily, a monitor said Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP that the number, gathered from areas where the ceasefire had come into effect, included five women and six children.

"Compare that number to Friday, the day before the truce came into effect: 63 civilians, including 11 children, died that day alone," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said the daily average during the month of February was 38 civilians killed.

More than 270,000 people -- among them more than 79,000 civilians -- have died in Syria since its conflict erupted in March 2011.

On Saturday, a ceasefire deal brokered by the United States and Russia came into effect in areas of Syria where the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group and Al-Qaeda's affiliate Al-Nusra Front are not deployed.

The Observatory has recorded a marked drop in fighting across those territories, and AFP correspondents have reported a sharp decline in shelling, rocket attacks and air strikes, despite mutual accusations by the government and rebel sides of intermittent violations.

According to Abdel Rahman, 42 rebel fighters have been killed since the deal came into effect, mostly in the coastal province of Latakia, Hama province in central Syria and the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus.

Twenty-five government fighters were killed in fighting around Damascus, Latakia and in the northern province of Aleppo, including some who died in clashes with jihadists.

A total of five combattants from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have died since Saturday in clashes with Al-Nusra and allied militants in Aleppo city.

Fighting is ongoing between IS and, separately, the YPG and pro-regime forces, but they also fall outside the ceasefire deal.

The Observatory did not have an immediate toll for those clashes.

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