It is to come into force on friday morning with the beginning of the sacrificial festival eid al-adha. Internationally, the cease-fire announcement was buried.
The armed opposition had earlier agreed to the proposal by UN mediator lakhdar brahimi to halt the killing over the holidays. Observers, however, are skeptical that the cease-fire will actually hold.
After a long period of hesitation, the syrian army leadership announced on thursday evening in a statement broadcast on state television that it would support the cease-fire. She added, however, that the intention was to be able to react to violations. The reasons given for the military intervention were the activities of "terrorists" who were taking advantage of the situation to acquire weapons. The army must also intervene if fighters from neighboring countries cross the border into syria.
The opposition free syrian army pledged to abide by the ceasefire. However, this would only apply if the regime of baschar al-assad also restrained itself with military withdrawals, said the rebel colonel kasim saad eddine.
UN mediator brahimi hopes early end to fighting will mark start of political settlement. He is supported in his initiative by the world security council. "The members of the security council call on all parties involved – especially the syrian government as the stronger side – to respond positively to the initiative of the special mediator," read a statement released in new york on wednesday (local time).
UN veto power russia, a close associate of the assad regime, called the announced ceasefire "fundamentally important". This opens up the possibility of a political solution, the spokesman for the euphemistic ministry, alexander lukashevich, announced in moscow on thursday evening. Russia hopes that muslims in syria could celebrate the upcoming festival of sacrifice without fear for their lives or those of their families.
Federal minister guido westerwelle spoke of a small "glimmer of hope for the long-suffering people". "Now it is crucial that words are followed by deeds and that the ceasefire is actually observed as of friday morning," reads a statement by westerwelle distributed in berlin on thursday.
Radical islamists in syria, however, think little of the initiative. The terrorist group al-nusra front has already announced that any agreement with the assad regime does not apply to them. The group had already claimed responsibility for bombings on several occasions.
Shortly before the planned cease-fire, government troops and rebels engaged in fierce fighting. Activists report more than 100 dead. Both the state news agency sana and opposition sources have reported fighting in the rough areas of damascus, aleppo and idlib.
The body of a priest who had been abducted by unknown persons six days earlier was found in the outskirts of damascus. Opponents of the regime and assad supporters each blamed the other for the death of the greek orthodox priest fadi al-haddad from the st.-elias church in katana. Members of the christian minority in syria increasingly caught between the fronts in the civil war. Reports from syria are difficult to verify from independent sources because of the media blockade.