Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

Renewed Fighting Breaks Out After Syrian Cease-Fire Goes Into Effect

Andrew Cummings | 08 May, 2017, 00:06

The agreement says that the de-escalation areas and security zones are a temporary measure, that could be in place for six months.

It has not been accepted by all opposition groups, and the Syrian government reserved the right to continue fighting what it called terrorist organisations across the country.

The plan is the latest worldwide attempt to reduce violence in the war-ravaged country, and is the first to envisage armed foreign monitors on the ground in Syria. The armed opposition, instead, is highly critical of the proposal, saying it lacks legitimacy.

The first and the largest safe zone in northern Syria will include the Idlib province and adjoining districts of Latakia, Aleppo and Hama with a total population of over 1 million, the ministry said.

It was unclear whether USA officials were aware of the stipulation banning coalition flights in the "de-escalation zones" before it was announced on Friday.

Fighting has continued in parts of Syria covered by a controversial Russian-sponsored ceasefire plan, which came into effect at midnight on Friday.

Opposition representatives walked out of negotiations in Astana, Kazakhstan, earlier this week, unable to accept Iran's involvement.

The four zones are only safe for the so-called armed opposition factions and exclude the Takfiri terrorist groups of Daesh and the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front.

"If that happens, we would be looking at a more serious effort than anything in the past", Aron Lund, a Syria expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in an article Friday. It added that government forces shelled rebel-held neighborhoods of the capital Damascus.

The Observatory said government forces shelled and bombed the nearby town of Latamneh and surrounding areas.

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The Observatory and opposition activist Ahmad al-Masalmeh said four opposition fighters were killed in the southern province of Daraa after they were targeted by government forces. It was not immediately clear if the fighters were members of the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee that is usually excluded from cease-fires.

The zones do not cover the three areas held entirely by the government, Damascus city, Tartus and Sweida, or areas in the northeast held by IS or a Kurdish-Arab alliance fighting the militant group.

The move, welcomed by the United Nations, has been met with scepticism from the United States as the so-called safe-zones will be closed for warplanes of the United States and those of the USA -led coalition.

The agreement did not explicitly mention the US-led coalition, which has been targeting jihadists from the Islamic State group, but Lavrentiev insisted that "flights cease over these territories". "Both also agreed to maintain regular contact".

Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation signed an agreement in the Kazakh capital of Astana on Thursday, setting up four "de-escalation" zones in war-torn Syria.

Aimed at reducing the violence in Syria, where six-years of conflict has killed more than 400,000 people, the Astana talks are negotiations held under the auspices of the United Nations, and involve the Syrian political opposition.

Some of its terms are ambiguous - it does not specify that the safe zones take effect immediately but gives the three guarantor countries two weeks to form working groups to delineate them and then until June 4 to come up with the definitive boundaries. Sergei Rudskoi said Friday other countries could participate.

Such zones, also referred to as non-conflict or safe zones, are meant to be areas where civilians can live without being targeted by any party in Syria's war.

A previous cease-fire agreement signed in Astana on December 30 helped reduce overall violence in Syria for several weeks but eventually collapsed.

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