– Syria truce brings sharp fall in death toll, but attacks continue in some areas 
– Syria ceasefire task force meets, France wants answers on violations
– World powers trade accusations over ceasefire violations
– Ban Ki-moon says ceasefire in Syria is holding
– Russia says federalism is an option for Syria
– Humanitarian aid begins to besieged towns

For an excellent resource on the ceasefire in Syria, visit the Syria Ceasefire Monitor website.

Syria truce brings sharp fall in death toll, but attacks continue in some areas
The death toll in areas of Syria outside jihadist control has fallen sharply since a ceasefire went into effect at the weekend, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Monday. Twenty people were killed on Saturday, the first day of the truce, in areas where the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) is not present. The same number of people were killed on Sunday, SOHR head Rami Abdel Rahman said. “To compare, 144 were killed–70 soldiers, 36 civilians, and 38 rebels–on Friday, on the eve of the truce,” he added. SOHR reported the average daily death toll for February at 120. Warplanes attacked six towns in Syria’s northern Aleppo province early on Sunday, the group also said. Syrian insurgents said the air strikes were carried out by Russian war planes in support of Syria’s government, but SOHR said the identity of the jets was not clear. Abdulrahman said some of the towns which were attacked, including Daret Azza, were controlled by Nusra Front and other Islamist groups not included in the ceasefire. Syria’s state media reported that militants fired shells into government-held areas in the coastal province of Latakia from their bases near the Turkish border, killing and wounded a number of people, without giving further details. Opposition activists and state media also reported clashes between troops and members of ISIS in Aleppo. High Negotiations Committee head Riad Hijab said that Russian, Iranian, and government forces have not stopped hostilities since the truce went into effect. He cited 24 cases of shelling, five cases of ground attacks, and 26 Russian air strikes on Sunday alone, targeting rebels that are abiding by the truce. Despite the violations, Hijab said the rebels would abide by the ceasefire. A Syrian military source on Saturday denied the army was violating the truce. Russia’s Defense Ministry declined to comment. [AFP, Reuters, AP, 2/29/2016]

Syria ceasefire task force meets, France wants answers on violations
Countries sponsoring the Syria peace process met in Geneva on Monday amid complaints that a new cessation of hostilities deal was quickly unraveling, with France demanding information about reports of persisting attacks on rebel positions. “We have received indications that attacks, including by air, have been continuing against zones controlled by the moderate opposition,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The countries belonging to the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), led by the United States and Russia, are supposed to monitor compliance with the deal and act rapidly to end any flare-ups, while using force only as a last resort. UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said violations would be discussed, but he declined to comment on reports of poison gas attacks. [Reuters, AFP, 2/29/2016]

World powers trade accusations over ceasefire violations
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says Syrian troops are violating the cease-fire brokered by Russia and the United States. Jubeir spoke to reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Sunday during a press conference with the visiting Danish Foreign Minister. He reiterated Saudi Arabia’s position that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no place in the future of Syria and that he must leave power, referring to a potential “plan B.” The Syrian government accused Jubeir on Monday of trying to undermine the cessation of hostilities agreement, calling his remarks “a delusion in the mind of the Saudi regime.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday it had received information about an attack on the Syrian town of Tel Abyad from Turkish territory using large-caliber artillery. Turkish media reported that Turkey’s military had struck ISIS positions inside Syria with artillery. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that the Syrian ceasefire covered only one third of the country and he hoped it would be expanded to encompass all of it. Russia warned that armed intervention by Ankara would deal an “irreparable blow” to the ceasefire plan. [AP, Reuters, 2/29/2016]

Ban Ki-moon says ceasefire in Syria is holding
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that a shaky ceasefire in Syria is holding “by and large” despite sporadic fighting that continued across Syria and growing accusations of violations that threatened to derail the truce, now in its third day. Speaking to reporters Monday in Geneva, Ban confirmed receiving a letter from the High Negotiations Committee, the main umbrella opposition group, complaining of continuing violations by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian backers. The letter sent Sunday urged the UN to help “specify the territory covered by the truce to prevent hostilities in the designated inclusion zones.” UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Friday he plans to resume peace talks on March 7 if a cessation of hostilities “largely holds.” De Mistura briefed the UN Security Council warning that “no doubt there will be no shortage of attempts to undermine this process.” Shortly after the briefing, the 15-member council voted unanimously to approve a resolution endorsing the ceasefire agreement less than an hour before it was set to start. [AP, Reuters, 2/26/2016]

Russia says federalism is an option for Syria
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Sunday about increasing the cooperation between their countries’ militaries on the cessation of hostilities in Syria. In a news briefing, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Moscow did not object to federalism, or any other new model for Syria’s future, “provided it is not written to someone’s dictation somewhere 1,000km away from Syria.” In an interview last September, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also did not object to federalism, but said that Syrians must agree on the future of their country and hold a referendum to amend the constitution. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday that he is concerned about Russia’s military buildup in Syria, which may threaten the fragile cessation of hostilities, adding that even though the ceasefire seems to be holding, they have reports of violations in some areas. The Russian Defense Ministry stated that Russian military planes would not carry out any air strikes on Saturday, February 27 “to avoid any possible mistakes when carrying out strikes, Russian military.” [AP, AFP, Reuters 2/29/2016]

Humanitarian aid begins to besieged towns
In an encouraging sign, aid workers began the first aid delivery since the deal came into effect, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent said. Ten trucks carrying blankets and hygiene supplies entered rebel-held Moadamiyet al-Sham, encircled by government forces, and another 41 were to follow on Monday. UN humanitarian coordinator Yacoub El Hillo said he hoped the relative calm would allow aid to be distributed to 154,000 besieged people over the next five days. Red Crescent official Muhannad al-Assadi says the 51 trucks are not carrying food, but domestic supplies such as blankets, soap and diapers. Assadi says Monday’s is the third aid convoy that has been allowed to enter the suburb of Moadamiyeh in recent weeks. [AFP, Reuters, AP, 2/29/2016]