A total of 135 people were killed in the first week of a fragile truce in Syria in areas covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement, according to a monitoring group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Saturday that at least 45 “rebel and Islamic” fighters, and 32 civilians, including seven children, were among the dead.
In the period between February 27 and March 5, at least 25 soldiers fighting for the government of President Bashar al-Assad were also killed as well as 27 fighters with the Syrian Kurdish Forces.
SOHR said that in areas not covered by the ceasefire, which came into force on February 27, 552 people were killed.
Britain-based SOHR monitors the country’s five-year-old civil war, which overall has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.
While the death toll during the ceasefire was significant, there has been an overall reduction of violence which has also allowed more aid packages to be delivered.
Humanitarian aid on Friday reached areas near the Syrian capital, Damascus, where fighting has been going on between rebels and government forces, but opposition groups said not enough assistance was getting through.
Taking advantage of the let-up in hostilities, a convoy of food and other supplies for 20,000 people left Damascus for the Eastern Ghouta district to the east, said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The UN estimates that there are almost 500,000 people living under siege in Syria, out of a total 4.6 million who are hard to reach with aid.
Elsewhere, buoyed by the ceasefire, protesters in opposition-held areas took to the streets for the first time in years to demonstrate against the regime under the slogan “The Revolution Continues!”
Waving the three-starred tricolour flag that has become the uprising’s emblem, demonstrators in opposition held areas of Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa and Homs called for President Assad’s downfall.
Looking ahead, global foreign ministers – having cautiously praised “real progress” of the ceasefire, said the focus now was on convincing all parties to return to UN-brokered peace talks in Switzerland tentatively set for next Wednesday.
“We want a speedy resumption of the negotiations in Geneva, but two conditions must be fulfilled: access for all Syrians to humanitarian aid, and full respect of the ceasefire,” Jean-Marc Ayrault, French foreign minister, said at a meeting in Paris on Friday held to discuss the truce.