Friday 9 December 2016

Sides fight for territory in Syria ahead of new truce to help civilians

Ali Montano Beirut

Published 12/09/2016 | 02:30

Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held neighbourhood of Aleppo. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Syrian men carrying babies make their way through the rubble of destroyed buildings following a reported air strike on a rebel-held neighbourhood of Aleppo. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Government troops and rebels were last night fighting to strengthen their positions in several parts of Syria on the eve of a truce aimed at easing the suffering of civilians.

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Observers reported clashes around Aleppo and Damascus as well as pushes by the government in the mountainous northwest and by rebels in the southwest.

The moves are part of efforts to improve their positions before fighting is due to stop today.

A rebel official said yesterday that insurgent factions guardedly welcomed the ceasefire but expressed concern over what they see as a lack of agreed sanctions on the government if it breaks the deal.

"A big part of the agreement serves the regime and doesn't apply pressure on it and doesn't serve the Syrian people," said Zakaria Malahifji of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim.

Syrian state media quoted private sources as saying the government had given its approval to the deal but there has been no official response.

Meanwhile, more air strikes were reported in Aleppo and Idlib province yesterday after scores of people were killed in aerial bombardment on Saturday. One, in the town of Saraqeb, hit a civil defence centre, injuring several people.

The ceasefire will not apply to the jihadist groups Isil or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, previously known as the Nusra Front, until it broke formal allegiance to al-Qa'ida and changed its name.

The Syrian air force bombed Isil targets near Palmyra, while rebels clashed with the group northeast of Damascus.

Irish Independent

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