Syria ceasefire in effect; violations alleged

Despite allegations from opposition groups, the fragile U.S.-Russian-brokered ceasefire which took effect in Syria on Saturday appears to be sustaining.

Russia suspended its aerial bombardment of rebel positions, but will continue drone overflights and aircraft reconnaissance missions to monitor the truce.

Additionally, Russia has established a telephone “hotline” in Khmeimim, Syria, to liaise with parties involved in the ceasefire and with its American counterpart center in Amman, Jordan.

Although the tenuous ceasefire appeared to be holding, nine violations were reported, all of which were alleged by Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels against the Syrian army, which FSA groups accused of shelling rebel-held positions with mortar and tank shells.

Syrian military officials denied the charges of truce violations.

Amid concerns the truce does not include al-Nusra Front or ISIS terrorists, FSA rebel groups which lodged the violation protests claimed Damascus was liable for several barrel bombs dropped from Syrian aircraft on Nijiya in Idlib Governorate, which is known to be occupied, in part, by al-Nusra Front terrorists.

However, rebel sources supported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported al-Nusra Front terrorists had withdrawn from several small communities they previously inhabited in the aftermath of the explosive devices being dropped.

Although Russia maintained it had halted its aerial bombardment of the “Green Zone,” areas controlled by opposition groups which abide by the truce, both the Kremlin and Damascus stated they would continue to mount attacks in regions known to be controlled by ISIS and al-Nusra Front terrorists.

Analysis

After five years of utter mayhem, some Syrians are finally enjoying a respite from the fighting.

The danger here is not just the strong possibility opposition groups will use a lull in the fighting to strengthen their positions and attempt to create a lane to grow their cache of weapons, but jihadists who are likely to create mayhem to sabotage the truce.

For Damascus’ ally, a great weight of responsibility falls on the Kremlin: Committed to crushing jihadist evil, it is crucial the Russians tiptoe when resuming the aerial bombardment of ISIS and al-Nusra Front positions. The two groups have vowed to intensify attacks and there exists the strong possibility they would undermine the truce by ginning up violence amid such a confused situation.

At the very least, the Syrian people, beleaguered by five years of strife, are now fetching humanitarian aid.

 

[Reuters] [RT News] [The Guardian] [Photo courtesy BBC]