Syria ceasefire 'at risk' after US fires missile
A tentative ceasefire in north-west Syria, the second in a month, threatened to unravel yesterday after the US launched an airstrike to target prominent al-Qa'ida figures.
At least 40 people died when the missile struck a meeting of terrorist leaders near the city of Idlib on Saturday, hours after a ceasefire brokered by Russia ended months of bombardment of the last bastion of anti-regime fighters.
"This operation targeted al-Qa'ida in Syria leaders responsible for attacks targeting US citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians," said a spokesman for the US, adding that the strike would "degrade their ability to conduct further attacks and destabilise the region".
"North-west Syria remains a safe haven where [al-Qa'ida] leaders actively co-ordinate terrorist activities throughout the region and in the West," the spokesman said.
But Russia, one of the key power brokers in Syria, accused the US of "endangering" a hard-won ceasefire that was scarcely a day old. Citing the Russian defence ministry, the Tass news agency said the US had failed to warn Russia or Turkey before the strikes.
Idlib is the last holdout for Syria's armed resistance. Over recent years, those who could not agree surrender deals, or those whom the government of Bashar al-Assad has no interest in allowing into regime-controlled areas, have been corralled into the north- western corner of the country.
Members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, al-Qa'ida's Syrian offshoot, their allies and other anti-government groups, along with civilians including fleeing women and children, are among those slowly being swept north.
Whether al-Qa'ida or other groups retaliate for the strike will determine the longevity of the ceasefire and the length of respite granted to the inhabitants of Idlib, a city of three million people. (© Daily Telegraph, London)