Iran, a close ally and military backer of Assad regime, welcomed a U.S.-Russian deal for a truce in Syria, saying on Sunday the conflict should be ended through politics while its forces continued their clashes with rebels around Aleppo.
The agreement, by the powers that back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, promises a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday, improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.
But hours after the agreement, more than 100 people were reported killed in a series of bombing raids on rebel-held parts of Aleppo province in the north of the country, and in Idlib in the north-west.
“Iran supports any ceasefire and peace plan to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria or limit it that involves a political solution … based on the Syrian people’s votes,” said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
“Iran has always believed that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that it should be resolved through peaceful means,” he added.
More than 100 civilians killed
The worst strikes were in Idlib city, the capital of the province of the same name, where they hit a market, killing 55 civilians.
Videos of footage on social media showed rescuers carrying the corpses of a charred child and other victims as other civil defense workers pulled mangled bodies from beneath rubble.
“A Russian fighter jet targeted a residential area and a market in Idlib.”
“The market was full of shoppers going to buy presents for their kids, they were all civilians,” said Salem Idlibi, a civil defense worker saying the market was unusually busy ahead of a major Muslim feast on Monday.
Idlib province has endured escalating strikes by Russian planes in recent months, according to international aid workers and residents, destroying scores of hospitals, bakeries and other infrastructure across rebel-held territory.
In Aleppo, at least 46 civilians, including nine children, were killed in a bombardment of opposition-held areas, an Al Jazeera correspondent in the city said.
The raids on Idlib and Aleppo were believed to have been carried out by Syrian army fighter jets, or those of its main ally Russia.
The Syrian rebels said they were planning a counter-offensive.
“The fighting is flaring on all the fronts of southern Aleppo,” rebel spokesman Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak said.
Razak, of the Nour al-Din al Zinki Brigades, part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which is backed by the West, said they were studying the peace deal but feared it merely gave the Syrian army a chance to gather forces and pour more Iranian-backed militias into Aleppo.