135 people killed in areas covered by Syria truce in first week, monitor says

A total of 135 people were killed in the first week of a fragile truce in Syria in areas covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said.

In areas held by the Islamic State and Al Nusra Front groups not covered by the ceasefire, 552 people were killed, the Britain-based Observatory said.

The UN-brokered truce came into force on February 27 after a failed attempt in January.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, said yesterday the rebel bastion of Douma was hit by either Syrian or Russian war planes.

Government and rebel forces have traded blame for apparent violations of the ceasefire, which has largely held since it began.

The threat of the ceasefire ending hangs over planned peace talks which are set to begin on March 10.

The United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura expects a staggered start to the talks, with participants arriving over several days for “indirect meetings”, he said in an interview with pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

“I see us beginning on March 10 when we will launch the process,” he said.

The talks will be conducted indirectly, not face-to-face.

“We will hold preparatory meetings and then go into detail with each group separately,” Mr de Mistura said.

The reduction in violence has made aid deliveries easier in some areas of the country, but Mr de Mistura said the Syrian Government should be processing aid faster.

“Lorries are waiting for 36 hours,” he said. “And medical aid must be allowed.”

On Wednesday the World Health Organization said Syrian officials had rejected the delivery of medical supplies, including trauma and burn kits and antibiotics, in a convoy to the besieged town of Moadamiya two days earlier.