Syria: Truce agreement about to fall due to Assad regime breaches

Syria: Truce agreement about to fall due to Assad regime breaches

A nationwide ceasefire in Syria brokered by Russia and Turkey was in effect early on Friday but witnessed many breaches by Assad regime that the rebels saw it as void and meaningless.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that that Syrian opposition groups and the Syrian government had signed a number of documents including a ceasefire deal that will be guaranteed by Turkey and Russia.

The truce, which is the third announced this year, came into effect at midnight on Thursday and follows the evacuation of Aleppo and the city’s surrender to forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad. It covers all areas of the country except those under Islamic State control.

However, Clashes and airstrikes persisted in some areas since the ceasefire began on Friday and continued on Saturday, but the ceasefire was largely holding according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“We consider the ceasefire an important step to resolve the Syrian conflict,” said Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “Along with the Russian Federation, we support this arrangement as a guarantor.”

Russian officials were quick to talk up the ceasefire as vindication of Moscow’s strategy, who started their air campaign in Syria in 2015 to support  Assad regime and prevent the fall of its rule.

“Russia has again proved its leading role in international peacekeeping activities,” said Sergei Zheleznyak, a Russian MP and member of the parliament’s international affairs committee. He called the agreement “a major diplomatic, military and political success”.

Void agreement

Rebels had violated the truce deal and taken over a position in Hama province, while a rebel group also accused the government of shelling areas in Atshan and Skeik villages in Idlib province, which borders Hama.

“Fierce clashes took place between the two sides pushing regime forces to withdraw from a hill near Maharda,” Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP news agency.

“Small rebel groups and armed loyalists are seeking to destroy the truce because it puts an end to their presence,” he said.

The observatory also reported an aerial attack on the rebel-held Wadi Barada Valley near Damascus.

Rebels say the army is seeking to recapture the area, where a major spring provides most of Damascus’s water supplies. Several people were killed in violence there on Friday, the Observatory said.

Ahmad al-Masalmeh, an activist in the southern Deraa province, said government forces had opened fire on rebel-held areas.

“Continued violations by the regime and bombardment and attempts to attack areas under the control of the revolutionary factions will make the agreement null and void,” a statement signed by a number of rebel groups said.

This statement shows that the rebels may be forced to renew the fighting.

“They [Syrian rebel groups] have sent an urgent appeal to the UN and to Turkey, who is the key player in the ceasefire, to negotiate with the Russians and try to stop the Syria government from fighting, warning that if the fighting continues there will be no option but to resume the fighting,” a journalist said.

“The terms of the ceasefire insist that the moment it comes in to effect there should be no military operation, no party should take advantage of it. But the Syria opposition would need that guarantee that the guns must fall silent across Syria.”

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes.