Wednesday 17 January 2018

Airstrikes flout Syria ceasefire and put peace talks in jeopardy

A man rides a bicycle through a devastated quarter of the old city of Homs, Syria, over the weekend. Photo: Hassan Ammar
A man rides a bicycle through a devastated quarter of the old city of Homs, Syria, over the weekend. Photo: Hassan Ammar

Bassem Mroue

Warplanes carried out air raids yesterday on several parts of northern Syria, as a top opposition official warned that continued violations of a fragile ceasefire could jeopardise a planned resumption of UN-brokered peace talks.

The acts of violence came as Russia said a northern town held by a predominantly Kurdish militia came under fire from the Turkish side of the border.

Yesterday's air raids came on the second day of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US, the most ambitious effort yet to curb the violence of the country's five-year civil war.

The truce has been holding since it went into effect at midnight on Friday, despite accusations by both sides of violations.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes hit the villages of Daret Azzeh and Qobtan al-Jabal in Aleppo province. The group did not say whether the warplanes were Russian or Syrian. The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) said the planes were Russian.

The Observatory and the LCC also reported air raids on the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour, saying a woman was killed and 12 others were wounded.

It was not immediately clear if the warplanes struck areas controlled by al-Qa'ida's branch in Syria, known as the Nusra Front. Both the Nusra Front and Isil are excluded from the truce.

Meanwhile, Syria's state news agency said militants fired shells into government-held areas in the coastal province of Latakia from their bases near the Turkish border. The agency reported that the shelling killed and wounded a number of people, without giving further details.

Opposition activists and state media also reported clashes between troops and members of Isil, mostly in the northern province of Aleppo. Still, both sides have said they will continue to abide by the truce.

Also yesterday, Riad Hijab, who heads the High Negotiations Committee, an umbrella for opposition and rebel factions, said in a statement directed to UN chief Ban Ki-Moon, that Russian, Iranian and government forces had not stopped hostilities since the truce went into effect.

Hijab said there had been 24 cases of shelling and five cases of ground attacks. He added that Russian warplanes carried out 26 airstrikes yesterday alone targeting rebels who were abiding by the truce. "The repeated violations by the regime and its allies have killed 29 and wounded dozens," he said.

Irish Independent

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