Could Wednesday's proposed cease-fire signal the end of Syria's nearly two-year civil war, or is it just more talk?
The Syrian regime has agreed "in principle" to a cease-fire, the United Nations' special envoy to the country said Wednesday.
But rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad are skeptical. They want to know if it's just another case of second verse, same as the first.
A cease-fire in April barely lasted a day before bodies started falling again. In total, more than 32,000 Syrians have died since the conflict began in March 2011, anti-al-Assad groups say.
This time, the proposal to lay down weapons would cover the Eid al-Adha holiday, U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said.
Starting Friday and lasting several days, Muslims around the world will celebrate the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
In his office in Cairo on Wednesday, Brahimi said he'd just returned from a trip to the Syrian capital, Damascus, where commanders told him they "agree on the principle of a cease-fire."
But there's been no formal statement from al-Assad's office, though it ha promised one Thursday.
Brahimi gave no details on the cease-fire proposal. But France's ambassador to gave vague details after a Security Council meeting. After getting an official response from the Syrian government, the United Nations wants shelling in neighborhoods to stop, Gérard Araud said.
If that holds for three days, Araud said, the long-term goal is "to transform this truce into an enduring cease-fire."
But, clearly, for the cease-fire to work, the Free Syrian Army has to abide by it.
The Free Syrian Army is a loosely organized group of men fighting al-Assad's well-armed forces, and they haven't given a united statement that they would agree.
However, a self-described deputy commander said Wednesday that there's pretty much no chance the rebels will trust the Syrian government.
"We don't think the regime is serious with agreeing to the cease-fire, since more than 200 people are martyred every day by the government's forces," Malek Kurdi said.
It's foolish to expect a total cease-fire, said Aram Nerguizian, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Killing is going to continue sporadically, he said. A cease-fire in this context is about a larger goal of getting most rebel brigades and al-Assad forces to temporarily stop or reduce the killing.
The Syrian government, he said, is probably angling for some breathing room.
"They could have a process here to re-engage with major international players who've sought to isolate them," Nerguizian said. "This war could go as long as 2020, so why not give themselves a few days?"
In New York, U.N. Security Council members talked via teleconference with Brahimi. Many said they supported a cease-fire but were not optimistic that it would work.
The German ambassador said that Brahimi painted a "dire and dramatic" view of Syria and that Germany would do everything it could to support a cease-fire. But Peter Whittig said it's important to be "cautious and realistic."
Russia and China have longstanding trade partnerships with Syria and have been accused of favoring the al-Assad regime. Both have repeatedly vetoed attempts in the Security Council to take tougher action against the Syrian government.
The U.N. ambassador to China said he wants a cease-fire but added that there may be a 1% chance it would happen.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that he thought the Syrians would have a formal statement Thursday and that a cease-fire would hopefully lead to a "political end" to the crisis.
Navi Pillay, the U.N. human rights chief, repeated her refrain from the past 19 months: that the international community must take urgent measures to protect Syria's people.
And the U.S. chimed in as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would "like to see a political transition take hold and begin."
Back in Syria, people were dying.