Fragile truce holds over northwest Syria

A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passing through the village of Kafr Halab on the western edge of Aleppo province on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 02 September 2019

Fragile truce holds over northwest Syria

  • Regime, Russian warplanes have not been seen over Idlib since a truce went into effect

BEIRUT: A fragile Russian-backed cease-fire was holding on Sunday in Syria’s violence-plagued northwest, following months of heavy bombardment of the anti-regime bastion, a war monitor said.

“Relative calm prevails” over the Idlib region, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Regime and Russian warplanes have not been seen over Idlib since a unilateral cease-fire went into effect at 6 a.m. on Saturday, he added.

But the Observatory head did report some “skirmishes” in Idlib, where regime forces have been battling fighters of the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance and allied opposition groups.

HTS, Al-Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate, controls almost all of Idlib as well as parts of neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces.

The area is one of the last holdouts of opposition to forces of Syria’s Bashar Assad.

The region of some 3 million people has been hit hard by four months of bombardment by the regime and its ally Russia.

More than 950 civilians have been killed since the end of April, according to the Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

The UN says more than 400,000 people have fled.

The truce is the latest Russian-led effort to avert what the UN has described as one of the worst humanitarian “nightmares” in Syria’s eight-year conflict.

It is the second such agreement between Assad’s regime and opposition since Aug. 1.

But on Saturday, an Assad adviser said that the cease-fire was “temporary.”

It “serves the grand strategy of liberating every inch of Syrian territory,” Buthaina Shaaban told Lebanon’s pro-Damascus Al-Mayadeen TV.

Just hours after the cease-fire went into effect, regime bombardment on the Idlib town of Kafranbel killed one civilian — the first casualty recorded by the Observatory since the start of the truce.

Two regime loyalists were reported killed when their car was targeted by opposition and militant fighters along Idlib’s southern border with Hama, according to the war monitor.

It said HTS fighters had also downed a Russian reconnaissance drone.

Also on Saturday, the US Defense Department said a US strike targeted Al-Qaeda in northern Idlib province.

The Observatory said the missile attack hit a meeting of Al-Qaeda leaders at a base near the city of Idlib, killing at least 40.

Russia accused the US of having “compromised” the cease-fire with the “indiscriminate” attack.

The US said it targeted leaders of Al-Qaeda in Syria (AQ-S) “responsible for attacks threatening US citizens, our partners and innocent civilians.”

The Syrian conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and driven millions from their homes since it started with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.


Bombings kill 6 civilians in main Kurdish city in Syria

Updated 12 November 2019

Bombings kill 6 civilians in main Kurdish city in Syria

  • More than 20 people were wounded in the simultaneous attacks
  • The blasts come after Daesh claimed to have killed an Armenian Catholic priest from Qamishli

QAMISHLI, Syria: Three simultaneous bombings killed at least six civilians in the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli in northeastern Syria on Monday, a Kurdish security source and a Britain-based monitor said.
There was no immediate claim for the bombings, but they occurred shortly after the Daesh group said it was responsible for the killing the same day of a priest from the same city.
In Qamishli, an AFP correspondent saw charred cars and smoke rise from the site of the blasts.
Firefighters tried to put out the flames caused by the explosions, as rescue workers carried away the victims.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, said two car bombs and an explosives-rigged motorcycle blew up in a market and near a school in the city.
More than 20 people were wounded in the simultaneous attacks, said the Britain-based monitor said.
The blasts come after Daesh claimed to have killed an Armenian Catholic priest from Qamishli.
The Observatory said the priest and his father were killed by gunfire as they made their way to the eastern province of Deir Ezzor to inspect the restoration of a church there.
Kurdish fighters have led the US-backed battle against Daesh in Syria, expelling the extremists from the last scrap of their proto-state in March.
But the jihadists have continued to claim deadly attacks in northeastern and eastern Syria ever since.
In July, IS said it was responsible for a massive truck bomb that killed at least 44 people in Qamishli.
A Turkish cross-border attack against Kurdish fighters on Oct. 9 heightened fears that Daesh fighters could break out in mass from Kurdish jails.
But a fragile Turkish-Russian cease-fire deal has more or less halted that offensive, and seen Kurdish forces withdraw from areas along the Turkish border, except Qamishli.