GAZIANTEP, Turkey — The unthinkable happened in Syria on Saturday as an internationally mandated truce unexpectedly took hold across much of the country, raising hopes that the beginning of an end to the five-year-old war may be in sight.

There were scattered skirmishes and bursts of artillery fire across some of the front lines, a car bomb killed two people in the province of Hama, and Syrian government warplanes dropped barrel bombs on a village in Idlib province, without causing casualties.

But for the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the guns were almost completely silent, offering Syrians a welcome respite from the relentless bloodshed that has killed in excess of a quarter of a million people.

“We have not experienced such a thing since the beginning of the revolution,” said Maj. Jamil al-Saleh, commander of the U.S.-backed Tajamu al-Izza brigade in the Hama province town of Latamneh. He and his men were taking advantage of the calm to clear the rubble from more than 50 airstrikes in the town during the previous 48 hours, conducted by Russian warplanes in a late blitz apparently aimed at securing maximum advantage before the truce went into effect.

There were no planes in the skies of the much-bombed city of Aleppo for the first time in days, and residents there were venturing out onto the streets with newfound confidence, said Ameen al-Halabi, an activist living in a rebel-held neighborhood.

“Today is so different. People feel safe, and you can feel more life in the streets,” he said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry told reporters in Moscow the Russian air force had completely suspended airstrikes over Syria on Saturday to encourage the implementation of the two-week truce. But a ministry spokesman indicated that Russia may soon resume bombardments against those groups not covered by the cessation of hostilities agreement – the Islamic State and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.

The suspension of the strikes “does not mean that Daesh or Nusra Front terrorists may breathe freely. We are in control of the situation all across Syria,” said Lt. Gen. Sergei Kuralenko, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, in comments quoted by the Russian Sputnik news agency.

This was the first attempt by the international community to bring about a cease-fire since a U.N.-led effort in 2012 collapsed within hours, and expectations were low that this one would succeed.

The exclusion of Jabhat al-Nusra was one reason why Syrians had low expectations. Jabhat al-Nusra fighters are scattered across rebel areas, making it hard to distinguish rebel positions from theirs.