Fighting is reportedly ongoing in Syria despite a rebel alliance's agreeing to a three-day ceasefire. The opposition blames the regime for using the agreement to attempt to lay siege to the divided city of Aleppo.
Government and allied forces reportedly took almost complete control of Maydaa and moved to cut off rebels' supply line into Aleppo as fighting continued on Thursday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. State media reported that the army and its allies had taken ground from "terrorists" in the area.
The UK-based Observatory, which monitors the conflict, reported shelling by rebels and government forces around the northern city of Aleppo and airstrikes in the northern Aleppo countryside on Wednesday.
Government forces effectively cut off the only way into rebel-held areas of Aleppo as they advanced to within firing range of the road, rebels said, putting some 250,000 people living in the second-largest city under siege.
"Currently nobody can get in or out of Aleppo," Zakaria Malahifji, of the rebel group Fastaqim, told the Reuters news agency.
Opposition miitias reported that resistance is continuing in attempts to recapture lost positions and re-secure the road.
The ceasefire, put in place on Wednesday, covers the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which is celebrated by Muslims at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
It is the first nationwide truce since one brokered by foreign powers in February, which has mostly unraveled.
Syria's military high command announced that the truce would last nearly 72 hours, from 1 a.m. on July 6 until 12 a.m. on July 9. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel alliance later said it would respect the ceasefire, on condition government forces also abided by it.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made an unusual appearance outside Damascus to celebrate Eid al-Fitr
Fragile ceasefire breaks
"Until now, [the government] has not abided by what it has announced, in that it has launched a number of attacks in various areas today," an FSA statement said.
"The regime announced the ceasefire, but they did not commit to it. There has been a lot of shelling and bombing on Douma and Daraya (rebel-held towns near Damascus)," according to a spokeswoman for the Syrian opposition delegation to the peace talks in Geneva.
Islam Alloush, spokesman for the powerful Jaish al Islam rebel faction, said in a Telegram message to journalists: "The regime has made this announcement purely to escape international pressure. On the ground, I don't think anything has changed."
US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the Syrian army's announcement, adding that discussions were under way to try to extend the truce.
Russia, US agree to intensify coordination
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama agreed during a telephone call Wednesday to "intensify" military coordination on Syria between their two countries.
"The two parties have confirmed their desire to intensify coordination between the Russian and American militaries in Syria," the Kremlin said in a statement.
Russia proposed joint airstrikes with the US against jihadi targets in Syria in May, a proposal that was rejected immediately by Washington.
jbh/sms (Reuters, AFP)