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Syrian Cease-Fire Appears to Be Holding, for Now


Ruined buildings in Douma, Syria, a rebel-held area near Damascus, on Friday.

Bassam Khabieh/Reuters

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A cease-fire between the Syrian government and rebel groups tentatively took hold across the country on Friday, with only scattered reports of clashes, shelling and airstrikes.

The truce, brokered primarily by Russia and Turkey, who pledged to guarantee the compliance of the government and the opposition, was announced on Thursday and went into effect at midnight.

Russian officials said that seven opposition groups had signed the agreement, which called for a cease-fire and by peace talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, next month. The text of the agreement has not been made public. A spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham, the largest rebel group, denied the group’s involvement.

The spokesman, Ahmed Qara Ali, said on Twitter on Thursday that the group had “reservations” about the agreement. He and other leaders of Ahrar al-Sham did not respond to requests on Friday to clarify the group’s position.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which opposes the Syrian government and tracks the conflict from Britain, reported clashes and shelling in pockets around the country, including near the Syrian capital, Damascus, and in the central province of Hama. By midday Friday, it had reported no deaths in fighting between rebels and pro-government forces.

The cease-fire agreement excluded jihadist groups including the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, which often fights alongside rebel groups, and the Islamic State, which holds territory in eastern Syria and across the border in Iraq. Pro-government forces and Islamic State fighters clashed in several places, the monitoring organization said.

The cease-fire came after the rebels’ worst defeat since the uprising against the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, began in 2011: the loss of eastern Aleppo to pro-government forces this month.

In an interview with TG5, an Italian television network, Mr. Assad called his victory in Aleppo “an important step toward ending the war.” But it did not end the war, he said, because terrorists were still in Syria.

Mr. Assad has long considered all of the rebels to be terrorists.

Mr. Assad did not comment on the cease-fire, which was apparently agreed upon after the interview was filmed, but he added that he was “optimistic, with caution,” about the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump of the United States.

Mr. Trump has expressed admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and has suggested the two countries could work together to fight jihadist groups in Syria.

The United States played no role in the new cease-fire agreement, but Russian officials have said they hoped that the United States would join the process after Mr. Trump takes office.

The new cease-fire agreement fails to address some issues that have hindered previous peace talks, most importantly the role Mr. Assad will play in Syria’s future. Russia has not addressed the issue and is unlikely to press Mr. Assad to leave after the military victory in Aleppo, analysts said.

Mr. Assad’s ouster has long been the primary demand of the rebels, and there was little sign that had changed. Residents in some rebel-held areas took advantage of the cease-fire on Friday to hold protests calling for Mr. Assad’s ouster, according to antigovernment activists and videos posted online.

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