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Syria Declares 48-Hour Cease-Fire In Daraa

Syrians ride a motorcycle amid the destruction in a neighborhood in the rebel-held area of Daraa in April.

The Syrian Army has declared a 48-hour cease-fire in its operations against antigovernment rebels around the southern city of Daraa.

The army said the cease-fire started at 12 p.m. local time on June 17 and described the move as a bid "to support efforts for national reconciliation."

The independent London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the same day that the cease-fire seemed to be holding.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement welcoming the development and calling for the opposition to also enforce a cease-fire so that humanitarian aid can reach civilians.

The Syrian Army and Iran-backed militias have stepped up efforts to capture the rebel-held parts of Daraa in recent weeks.

Also on June 17, the United Nations announced a further round of peace talks between the government and forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Geneva on July 10.

Moscow also announced it hopes to organize another round of talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on July 4-5.

The 6-year-old Syrian conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead and driven more than 11 million people from their homes.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and dpa