Syrian ceasefire gives photographers a rare look at war-torn Damascus
Halt in fighting 1st step to humanitarian aid and a lasting peace, UN hopes
Fighting has stopped, mostly.
The cessation in fighting is shaping up to be the most promising step in years toward ending a war that has killed at least 250,000 people and driven millions of Syrians to flee their country.
The sight of soldiers, like this one keeping watch near Hama city on Wednesday, is a reminder that the truce is still in its fledgling stages.
Skirmishes had been reported in Hama, Homs, Latakia and Damascus, but by Thursday fighting has been mostly contained, the UN said.
UN says the ceasefire is 'fragile' but holding.
The UN's special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura — who is monitoring the truce — described the situation as "fragile" but said he was hopeful the break will be a lasting one.
De Mistura spoke in Geneva on Thursday amid hopes of a breakthrough that could pave the way for regular humanitarian aid deliveries to remote and besieged areas that have been cut off by the fighting.
The ceasefire is the first step to delivering meaningful aid, the UN hopes.
So far, much of the aid reaching those in need is being delivered by the Russian military. These children in Maarzaf, about 15 kilometres west of Hama city, are getting sweets.
The effects of war are still an everyday reality.
The Syrian Ministry of Electricity reported power outages across the country on Thursday. These children in Damascus, who are used to the frequent outages, continued their studies by flashlight.
The break in fighting has given residents a rare chance to take stock.
People in rebel-held parts of Douma came out to assess the damage this week after the airstrikes, shelling and street-level fighting in the Damascus suburb had mostly stopped.
Large areas of the Syrian capital have been left in ruins.
Not all those in need of help were injured in fighting.
Abo Mustafa, who lives in Damascus's rebel-controlled neighbourhood of Teshreen, is elderly and infirm. Photographed on Feb. 29, he hopes a break in fighting will give him a chance to leave his house to seek medical attention after a fall the week before.
Life will be affected for generations.
Heba, 14, pictured in back with her mother and brother, was pulled out of school to care for her eldest sibling, Abdo (in the foreground), who has Down syndrome. Mother Buthanya's husband disappeared four years ago, leaving her as the sole breadwinner.
Prisoner exchanges were part of the deal.
The release of prisoners, which this man is celebrating in the Teshreen neighbourhood of Damascus on Feb. 29 by shooting into the air, is one of the terms of the tenuous ceasefire.
Peace talks were called off last month after a spike in fighting.
De Mistura said the agreement has "greatly reduced" violence in Syria. During his press conference on Thursday, he reaffirmed his hopes that peace talks between the warring Syrians factions would be held in the near future.
"In general, the cessation has been holding [but] like in every cessation of hostilities — this one in particular — there are still a number of places where fighting has continued," he said.
With files from The Associated Press and Reuters