The Syrian army and rebel forces have agreed to suspend military operations from Friday to mark the four-day Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha. Although both have reserved the right to retaliate in the face of attack.
Syria's army command confirmed on Thursday that it had agreed to honor an internationally-backed ceasefire proposal brokered by UN-Arab peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. In a statement broadcast on Syrian state television the army said the truce would take effect Friday morning and continue until Monday, October 29.
But army officials vowed they would respond to "terrorist groups trying to reinforce their positions by arming themselves and getting reinforcements" as well as neighboring countries facilitating the smuggling of fighters across borders during that period.
Within minutes of the broadcast Syria's main rebel force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), responded, saying it too would temporarily halt military action.
"We will respect the ceasefire from tomorrow morning if the Syrian army does the same," General Mustafa al-Sheikh told the AFP news agency by telephone from Turkey. "But if they fire a single shot, we will respond with 100. So we reserve the right to respond," he said.
The spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed hope that the cease-fire would hold despite the lack of trust between the two sides.
"It's important that all sides will adhere to this," said Martin Nesirky, Ban's spokesman. "We all understand that there is a lack of trust between parties and therefore we all understand that we cannot be sure what will transpire."
"We would simply, fervently hope the guns do fall silent, that there is a suspension in the violence so that humanitarian workers can help those who are most in need," Nesirky said. "The world is now watching to see what will happen on Friday."
The announcement came a day after Brahimi said he had succeeded in negotiating the truce with the Syrian regime and "most" rebel leaders. He told reporters in Cairo that the initiative was designed to result in a longer truce and political negotiations between the opposing sides.
"If this humble initiative succeeds, we hope that we can build on it in order to discuss a longer and more effective cease-fire and this has to be part of a comprehensive political process," Brahimi said.
But rebel forces have since questioned whether Syrian President Bashar Assad will adhere to his promises. In April a ceasefire announced by Brahimi's predecessor, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, failed to take hold.
Activists say more than 35,000 people have died since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011.
ccp,slk/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)