Tuesday 6 December 2016

Syria's ceasefire collapses as military blames rebels

Josie Ensor

Published 20/09/2016 | 02:30

Activists and rebel groups also accuse the government of violating the ceasefire. Photo: Alaa Al-Faqir/Reuters
Activists and rebel groups also accuse the government of violating the ceasefire. Photo: Alaa Al-Faqir/Reuters

Syria's military command has declared the US-Russian-brokered ceasefire over, blaming the country's rebel groups for undermining the agreement.

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In a statement, the Syrian military said that "armed terrorist groups" repeatedly violated the ceasefire, which came into effect last week.

It said the armed groups also took advantage of the truce to mobilise and arm themselves, while attacking government-held areas. The statement said the rebels wasted a "real chance" to stop the bloodshed.

Activists and rebel groups also accuse the government of violating the ceasefire. The UN said the Syrian government had obstructed the delivery of aid, a key component of the deal.

Over the weekend, the US-led coalition accidentally bombed a Syrian army position as it fought Isil in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, killing more than 90 government troops.

Washington apologised, but Russia, the Syrian government's chief ally, questioned whether it had been an accident and accused the US of helping Isil.

"The actions of the pilots - if they, as we hope, were not taken on orders from Washington - fall between criminal negligence and direct pandering to Isil terrorists," Moscow said.

Representatives from both sides stormed out of a closed-door UN security council emergency session which had been called by Russia to discuss the botched raid.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said Moscow should be ashamed of calling the meeting, adding: "Even by Russia's standards, tonight's stunt, replete with moralism and grandstanding, is uniquely typical and hypocritical."

A response came yesterday when a barrage of strikes hit the rebel-held eastern side of Aleppo, killing one woman and injuring several others.

The US and Russia had planned to work together on an unprecedented joint operation to target Islamist rebels including Isil and formerly al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, if the ceasefire held for seven days. The plan now hangs in the balance.

Another key tenet of the deal, which has been described as the "last chance" to save Syria, had been for the UN to be allowed to deliver much-needed aid to besieged parts of the country.

A week later, more than 20 of its trucks are waiting at the border. The UN has said it has not received necessary permissions and safety guarantees from the Syrian government for it to proceed with the deliveries to Aleppo and other hard-to-reach areas.

Irish Independent

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