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Cease-Fire Holds In Syria's Idlib


Moving to a different part of the world, the war in Syria is one of the most devastating and complicated conflicts in the world. On Friday, Russia, the Syrian regime's main military backer, and Turkey announced a cease-fire in northwest Syria. It has for now stopped the fighting in Idlib province near the Turkish border. NPR's Jane Arraf is near that border and joins us now from Antakya. Jane, thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: So it's been three days since the cease-fire was announced. There have been cease-fires before. Is this one holding?

ARRAF: It is, actually, for the most part. And there is really quite a lot at stake here for Turkey, for Syria, and particularly for those 1 million civilians who are massed along the Turkish border who have been trying to get to safety with intense fighting before this. Now, there's still immense devastation, a lot of destruction. There are hospitals destroyed, very little - very few supplies coming through for the people there. But the cease-fire does for now appear to be holding.

MARTIN: And what has this meant for people living in Idlib province?

ARRAF: Well, you know, they're very grateful that the airstrikes have stopped, that there's no artillery, that there's no shelling. But there's still not enough shelter. There's not enough water. And there's a real fear that this cease-fire won't hold. We reached a resident of Idlib city. Her name is Etab Haddisi. And she's a trainer for an aid organization. This is what she told us.

ETAB HADDISI: I'm afraid of that this agreement is not true in any time. The government system or Russia may attack us by rockets, by planes. So we are very afraid.

ARRAF: Now, Haddisi is a single mother, she has two sons, they're 10 and 16. She says she lives with two hours of electricity a day. But worse is the constant worry as she tries to keep her boys safe, and you can actually hear that worry in her voice.

HADDISI: I want to cry. Forgive me. I want to cry. I try to bring them up in spite of all these difficulties in life. I'm living alone. It is not an easy thing. When the night is coming, I am afraid.

ARRAF: But she says, despite that, she wants to stay in Idlib. She wants her sons to grow up in their own country.

MARTIN: You know, over the years, Turkey has taken in almost 4 million refugees. But now they're encouraging Syrian refugees and migrants who are already in the country to leave. What's caused this shift?

ARRAF: So really what it is is the numbers. There are almost 4 million refugees in Turkey, an enormous number of people. And at first, Turkey was very welcoming. But especially now, since Turkish soldiers have been dying in the recent fighting, there has been growing resentment. We went to one of the cities today where there were attacks by Turkish citizens against Syrian shopkeepers after the funeral of a Turkish soldier who was killed in the fighting, and they were saying you all should go home. Why are you here? You should be fighting the Syrian government. The problem is there are no homes to go back to in Syria. And for many of them, there's nowhere but here.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Jane Arraf in Antakya along the Turkey-Syria border. Jane, thank you so much.

ARRAF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.