Russia's Defense ministry denies fighting of Syrian government and opposition units

Under the Russian plan, Assad's air force would halt flights over the designated areas across the war-torn country.

Russian Federation and Iran are key Assad allies and both are viewed as foreign occupying forces by his opponents.

Political and armed opposition groups have accused Russian Federation of being unwilling or unable to get Assad and his Iranian-backed militia allies to respect past ceasefires.

Terrorist organizations are not part of the ceasefire.

What the deal does not cover are areas controlled by Islamic State group militants and USA -backed Kurdish groups.

"The reduction in violence must be clear and lasting", Observatory Director Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.

The rebel commander said the general level of violence was reduced, but added: "Regime attempts (to advance) in the Hama countryside continue".

No-fly zones have been a contentious issue in the Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year; they have always been requested by rebel groups and rejected by the government. The rebel groups include some supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

The Britain-based Observatory said a child was killed in government shelling in parts of Homs province that fall within the de-escalation zones, the first civilian death in the zones since the deal began coming into effect.

It is unclear whether any of the rebels will abide by the ceasefire.

Back when Turkey and the USA were both super keen on the idea of safe zones, a big selling point was the imposition of no-fly zones over the areas, to keep the civilians within getting bombed. Syrian government warplanes could be heard from Eastern Ghouta around midday, according to an AFP correspondent in the rebel-held town of Douma.

Mohammed Rasheed, a spokesman for the Jaish al-Nasr rebel group, said Russian Federation was "merely playing political games" and "making declarations".

Russian officials said it could be at least another month until the full details are worked out and the safe areas are fully established.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are to act as guarantors.

The deal calls for "rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access" in the areas in question, as well as measures to restore infrastructure and allow the "safe and voluntary return" of displaced people and refugees.

The Pentagon said the de-escalation agreement would not affect the US -led air campaign against IS.

But he stressed that Russia's air force would continue striking so-called Islamic State (IS) elsewhere in Syria.

United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura, who was in Astana as an observer, described the agreement as "an important promising positive step in the right direction" toward a halt in the fighting.

But State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said later that the agreement does not "preclude anyone from going after terrorists wherever they may be in Syria".

The guarantors will finalise maps of the de-escalation zones by June 4, and the agreement can be extended automatically if the three guarantor states agree.

The US has expressed concern over Iran, saying the country had "only contributed to the violence, not stopped it".

The largest safe zone includes Syria's Idlib Province and adjoining districts of Hama, Aleppo, and Latakia provinces.

Zone one covers north-west Syria including rebel-held Idlib province, zone two central Syria including parts of Homs, zone three parts of the Damascus' suburbs, and zone four southern Syria.

He told dpa shortly after the agreement went into effect: "Previous agreements were violated, let us see if this holds".

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