Guns fell silent for the first time in years in parts of civil-war-racked Syria early Saturday morning, as a cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia went into effect at midnight, Damascus time.

The deadline came as the U.N. Security Council, meeting in New York, voted unanimously to approve the agreement to halt the brutal conflict that has left more than a quarter-million people dead, sent millions fleeing the country, and facilitated the spread of the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq and far beyond.

“Let us pray that this works,” U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said in Geneva, after meeting with representatives of the countries sponsoring the accord. “Because, frankly, this is the best opportunity we can imagine that the Syrian people have had over the last five years . . . to see . . . something related to peace.”

qatar airways