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Syrian government air strikes stop on Idlib after 'conditional' ceasefire

Sources on the ground tell Middle East Eye no planes have dropped bombs since midnight, though scepticism remains over how long it will last
Local aid groups confirm that a ceasefire has held in Idlib since midnight on Friday (AFP)

Air strikes on Syria's rebel-held Idlib province have stopped after the Syrian government announced a ceasefire on Thursday night, according to activist groups and sources on the ground. 

Local aid groups and civilians confirmed to Middle East Eye on Friday that no air strikes had taken place in Idlib since midnight. 

"There has been no air strikes today," Fouad Ali, an aid worker for the Violet organisation, told MEE. 

'We hope that the ceasefire lasts, but from past experience we expect it to hold for a few days'

- Fouad Ali, aid worker

"We hope that the ceasefire lasts, but from past experience we expect it to hold for a few days."

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group also confirmed that a "cautious" ceasefire had begun since midnight.

"A cautious calm has reigned since just before midnight," Observatory head Rami Abdurrahman told the AFP news agency.

He said that Syrian and Russia aircraft were no longer seen flying over Idlib, while "fighting on the ground had also ceased on all fronts in the past few hours".

'Conditional ceasefire' 

Citing a military source, Syria's official SANA news agency said the ceasefire was conditional on rebel groups adhering to terms set out in a de-escalation agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey in September.

The conditional ceasefire comes after the Syrian government, alongside its ally Russia, has for months pounded Idlib and opposition-held parts of neighbouring provinces, as well as made small territorial gains in the rebel enclave's south.

Idlib deal: Sweet relief tempered by scepticism in Syria's rebel province
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Hundreds of civilians have been killed by the bombardment since the Syrian government began its campaign in late April. Thousands of civilians have been forces to flee, with many heading towards the Turkish border. 

The United Nations on Thursday said it will investigate attacks on its humanitarian facilities in northwest Syria, only days after two-thirds of the UN Security Council called for an inquiry.

The investigation will focus on attacks on about 14 UN-supported facilities in Idlib province, including hospitals and health centres, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Britain, France, the United States, Germany, Belgium, Peru, Poland, Kuwait, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia delivered a formal diplomatic petition to Guterres earlier this week asking him to launch the probe.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said a board was being established to lead the investigation.

"The investigation will cover destruction of or damage to facilities on the deconfliction list and UN-supported facilities in the area," Dujarric said in a statement, adding that it will "ascertain the facts of these incidents and report to the secretary-general".