Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that it had agreed with Russia that a ceasefire will be implemented on Sunday in northwestern Syria’s Idlib region to stem the flow of civilians uprooted by the violence.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled attacks in Idlib province toward the Turkish border in recent weeks, as towns and villages have been pounded by Russian jets and Syrian artillery since a renewed regime assault last month.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said attacks by air and land would halt at one minute past midnight on Jan. 12 under the ceasefire, which Ankara has been seeking for several weeks.
The announcement came a day after a Russian defense ministry official was quoted as saying that a ceasefire had already been implemented at 1100 GMT on Thursday, in line with agreements with Turkey.
Some 3.6 million Syrians have sought shelter in Turkey from their country’s nearly nine-year-old war. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey cannot carry the burden of more refugees from Idlib, where up to 3 million people live.
Many Syrians still in Idlib are completely dependent on cross-border aid, according to the United Nations, but a six-year-long United Nations operation delivering supplies will expire at midnight on Friday if a deadlocked UN Security Council cannot reach a last-minute deal to extend its authorization.
Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, has vowed to recapture Idlib, the last opposition-held swathe of territory. Turkey has for years backed Syrian factions fighting to oust Assad.
On Friday, regime warplanes bombed Idlib, less than 24 hours after the ceasefire went into effect there, opposition activists said.
Nevertheless, activists reported an overall drop in violence in Idlib compared to the past three weeks.
Friday's airstrikes were reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said Russia warplanes executed intensive raids on the strategic rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan and surrounding villages.
The Britain-based organization, which documents the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, also said regime forces and opposition fighters clashed in eastern parts of Idlib province Friday morning.
The Smart news agency, a Syrian opposition activist collective, said Friday's airstrikes concentrated on the western and northern neighborhoods of Maaret al-Numan.