A Syrian boy carries an infant as he looks for his relatives in the rubble of destroyed houses following what local activists say was an airstrike by Russians in the rebel-held area of Kallasah, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, in October, 2015. A cease-fire in the city has been announced by the United States after a recent uptick in violence there. File Photo by Ameer Alhalbi/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, May 4 (UPI) -- A partial cease-fire in the Syrian province of Aleppo was reached Wednesday by the United States and Russia, in the hopes it will reduce violence that has flared up after a two-month lull.
The U.S. State Department said a decrease in violence in the city of Aleppo and surrounding areas had already been seen, though Russia did not confirm the cease-fire after the U.S. announcement, and the details remained somewhat unclear, according to reports.
The truce went into effect at midnight Wednesday, U.S. officials said, though the Syrian Arab News Agency reported it was to start at 1 a.m Thursday. The United States and Russia also had not agreed on whether some groups of fighters could still be targeted when the fighting stopped, The New York Times reported.
A cease-fire in the province had been reached in February, but violence has slowly ratcheted back up as bombing by the Syrian government in residential areas has intensified and a hospital was attacked in the last week alone.
"We have seen an overall decrease in violence in these areas, even though there have been reports of continued fighting in some locations," Mark Toner, a deputy spokesperson at the State Department, said in a statement. "To ensure this continues in a sustainable way, we are coordinating closely with Russia to finalize enhanced monitoring efforts of this renewed cessation."
At issue with the deal are pockets of rebel fighters the Syrian and Russian governments say are linked to al-Qaida and should continue to be targeted. Many of the rebel pockets are in residential areas, however, leading the United States to oppose continuing to go after them.
In the statement, Toner said an agreement was reached and that the United States would "look to Russia" for support in pressuring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into complying with the cease-fire, including holding fire in the town of East Ghouta, near Aleppo, for 48 hours.
Temporary new truces have been set up in the past two weeks as U.N.-sponsored negotiations for an end to Assad's regime and transition to new government broke down, The Washington Post reported, but Toner said the series of pauses in fighting will not lead to a larger solution to the five-year-old civil war there.
"Our objective remains, and has always been, a single nationwide cessation of hostilities covering all of Syria -- not a series of local truces," Toner said. "We are determined to reaffirm the cessation of hostilities across Syria and will continue expanding this effort so we can de-escalate the violence, alleviate the suffering, and help create the conditions that enable the parties to resume negotiations focused on a political transition."