Syrian men gather in the rebel-held town of Saqba, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus, during a demonstration against the Syrian regime, on December 30, 2016, on the first day of a nationwide truce. AFP / Sameer Al-Doumy
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Clashes, shelling and air raids in western Syria marred a Russian- and Turkish-backed cease-fire that aims to end nearly six years of war and lead to peace talks between rebels and a government emboldened by recent battlefield success.The truce went into force at midnight but monitors and rebels reported almost immediate clashes, and violence appeared to escalate later Friday as warplanes bombed areas in the country's northwest, they said.The agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey, which said they would guarantee the truce, is the first of three such deals this year not to involve the United States or United Nations.Clashes between rebel groups and government forces took place overnight in the area, the Observatory and rebel officials said. Warplanes and helicopters also struck northwest of Damascus in the rebel-held Wadi Barada valley, where government troops and allied forces clashed with rebels, the Observatory reported.A number of rebel groups have signed the new agreement, Russia's Defense Ministry said Thursday. Several rebel officials acknowledged the deal, and an FSA spokesman said it would abide by the truce.
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