Syrians catching breath while awaiting a settlement
DAMASCUS - As the Syrian war enters its sixth year on March 15th, the UN-brokered “cessation of hostilities” seems to be holding for a second week. Despite numerous violations of the first major truce in the 5-year conflict, war-weary Syrians were keen to grasp every moment of tranquillity to enjoy a semblance of normal life.
Indeed, the ceasefire, which went into effect February 27th, allowed the delivery of humanitarian aid to many besieged areas.
On front lines across Syria, residents were able to leave their hideouts without fear of being killed by a shell or barrel bomb.
“We had lost hope of ever returning to a normal life without the sounds of exploding shells, gunfire and roaring warplanes. I just can’t believe that I am able to walk around without fear,” said Andre Youssef from Abassiyeen, a Damascus neighbourhood.
In Daraya, a rebel stronghold in rural Damascus, citizens took advantage of the ceasefire to check on their farms. A resident of the restive city marvelled on his Facebook page that he could enjoy a barbecue with his family under olive trees. “We are preparing food and enjoying the spring sun. We have been deprived of such pleasures for more than four years of fighting,” he commented on photos of the outing.
Further south, in Deraa where the first anti-government demonstrations began in March 2011, refugees took advantage of the truce to return home. “Some of my relatives who have sought refuge in Jordan three years ago came back for a few days to sound out the situation. If the truce continues to hold they plan to bring back their wives and children,” said Mahmoud Zo’bi from Msayfra, near Deraa.
In rebel-held areas, the truce provided an occasion to resume anti-government protests reminiscent of the early days of the uprising under the slogan “The Revolution Continues”, calling for the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Syrians on all sides were desperately clinging to the tenuous truce, despite violations that claimed the lives of 135 people in the first week.
“Before the truce, the daily casualty toll was much higher than that,” observed Adnan Mohamad, a government employee. “Everybody is tired and wants salvation. If the truce collapses, it means there will be no end to this war.”