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  Amid violation claims, Syria’s tenuous truce holds

Amid violation claims, Syria’s tenuous truce holds

AFP
Published : Feb 29, 2016, 6:17 am IST
Updated : Feb 29, 2016, 6:17 am IST

A Syrian refugee is helped by volunteers to leave a sinking dinghy at a beach on the south-eastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sunday. — AP

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A Syrian refugee is helped by volunteers to leave a sinking dinghy at a beach on the south-eastern island of Lesbos, Greece, Sunday. — AP

Syria’s fragile ceasefire entered a second day on Sunday with battlezones still largely quiet for the first time in five years, despite claims and counter-claims of violations from both sides.

 

The truce, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is seen as a crucial step towards ending a conflict that has claimed 270,000 lives and displaced more than half the population.

The convoluted patchwork of territorial control in Syria, wrapped up in a brutal civil war since 2011, has complicated efforts to implement the deal.

Warplanes, believed to be either Syrian or Russian, bombed seven villages Sunday in the northern province of Aleppo and Hama in the centre, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It was unclear if the raids hit areas covered by the ceasefire, which excludes territory held by the Islamic State jihadist group and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

 

According to Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, only one of the villages, Kafr Hamra in Aleppo province, is controlled by Al-Nusra and the others are in the hands of non-jihadist rebels.

Syria’s main Opposition grouping recorded 15 violations by government troops and allied forces on the first day of a landmark truce, a spokesman told reporters on Sunday.

“There were 15 violations by the regime forces on day one of the ceasefire, including two attacks by (Lebanese militant group) Hezbollah in Zabadani” west of Damascus, said Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the High Negotiations Commit- tee.

Speaking by telephone from Riyadh, Meslet said the HNC would be lodging a formal letter of complaint with UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the foreign ministers of the International Syria Support Group.

 

The HNC announced earlier that 97 opposition factions had agreed to respect the truce, for two weeks initially.

Meslet said none of those groups had responded to the violations on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia also accused President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its ally Russia of “ceasefire violations” in Syria.

“There are violations to the ceasefire from Russian and (Syrian) regime aircraft,” Saudi foreign minister Adel Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh.

Russia hit back and said that the ceasefire had been breached nine times over the past 24 hours including by Turkey but that the deal was mostly holding.

The defence ministry said violations were committed by moderate rebels as well as “terrorist organisations”.

 

“Over the past 24 hours, nine instances of violations of cessation of hostilities have been uncovered,” the ministry said, citing its coordination centre at the Hmeimim airbase in Syria. “On the whole, the ceasefire regime in Syria is being implemented,” it said of the deal.

Location: Syria, Damascus