530 killed in areas covered by Syria truce in first 23 days


A total of 530 people were killed in the first 23 days of a truce in Syria in areas covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday.

In areas not covered by the ceasefire, which came into force on Feb. 27, 1,279 people were killed, the British-based Observatory said.

The partial truce — which excludes Islamic State and the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front — has been in place for just over three weeks to allow peace talks to take place in Geneva between the government and opposition groups.

But U.N. peace envoy Staffan de Mistura has said that the lack of progress on the issue of President Bashar al-Assad’s future could threaten the current reduction in violence.

Syrian government forces and their allies pushed forward against Islamic State fighters to reach the outskirts of the historic city of Palmyra on Wednesday,  the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Clashes raged around the town after government forces took control of most of a nearby hill with air cover from Syrian and Russian warplanes, it said.

The Syrian army is trying to recapture Palmyra, which Islamic State seized in May, to open a road to the mostly IS-held eastern province of Deir al-Zor.