Syrian army extends nationwide ceasefire for 72 hours: state media

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian military has extended a nationwide ceasefire that expired on Friday for another 72 hours, state media reported on Saturday.

The military high command said in a statement “a regime of calm will be extended for a period of 72 hours from one o’clock on July 9”.

The Syrian government uses the term “regime of calm” to denote a temporary ceasefire.

The previous 72-hour truce, which was accepted by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel alliance but led to no noticeable decrease in violence, ran up to midnight on July 8.

That truce was the first to be declared across the whole country since one brokered by foreign powers in February to facilitate talks to end the five-year-old civil war. That truce has mostly unraveled, and the escalating violence caused talks to break down.

The Syrian army and the Russian military, which backs Assad, have since then periodically announced a number of temporary local truces in areas of intense fighting. But air strikes and fighting have often continued in spite of the declarations.

During this week’s three-day truce, Syrian government forces advanced towards the only route into the opposition half of the city of Aleppo, the Castello Road, bringing the road within closer firing range and trapping between 250,000 and 300,000 people.

They also took territory from rebels east of Damascus.

In the same period, dozens have been killed and injured by rebel shelling into government-held parts of Aleppo, and in air strikes on a holiday spot in Idlib province.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington; editing by Andrew Roche