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Monday 18 December 2017

Fresh shelling in Syria village highlights limits of ceasefire

Reporters ran for cover after fresh shelling in Syria (AP)
Reporters ran for cover after fresh shelling in Syria (AP)

Artillery shells have exploded in a Syrian village near the Turkish border, sending international reporters running for cover and underscoring the limits of Syria's partial ceasefire.

The journalists were visiting the village of Kinsibba, which overlooks the Turkish border, on a trip organised by Russia's defence and foreign ministries.

The Russian military said the shelling came from the Nusra Front, a militant group that is excluded from the Russia and US-brokered ceasefire.

The Syrian ceasefire, which is now in its fourth day, also does not cover the Islamic State group.

Reporters were walking across the village and talking to locals when the first shell struck a hillside a few hundred metres away. No casualties were reported.

Russia's defence ministry said the ceasefire has been violated 15 times in the past 24 hours.

The ministry said most of the violations were recorded around Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Latakia.

It said the NF and IS groups have been attacking government positions and residential areas from territory controlled by the Syrian opposition.

The ceasefire began at midnight on Friday and has brought a notable reduction in hostilities for the first time in the five-year war that has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced half of Syria's population and flooded Europe with refugees.

Before their trip to Kinsibba, the reporters visited the nearby village of Ghunaymiyah, where residents recently began returning to their homes after the government last month captured the village from NF fighters.

Most of the buildings in Ghunaymiyah are just concrete shells, with windows and doors missing.

One resident, Musa Magardish, stood in shock in front of his ruined home. He said: "I don't have any money for rebuilding my house, and I have no idea how I can do it."

Across the street, dozens lined up in front of a Russian military truck to receive food aid including tinned meat, beans and other staples.

"I have a big family, there are seven of us, we feel grateful for that," said Nabila Chine.

At the village's church, which was damaged in the fighting, a few people gathered to clean up the shards of glass and pieces of concrete littering the floor, before praying.

One of the parishioners, Farah Arijan, said NF militants badly damaged the church when they captured the village in 2012.

"They also killed many of our people, one woman was killed when she was trying to flee," he said.

Press Association

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