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The New Arab

Syrian regime's 'trick-ceasefire' a licence to massacre more civilians

The Syrian regime's bombardment of Aleppo continued despite its 'regime of calm' [AFP]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2016

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The regime's ceasefire is a ruse to soften rebels' resistance and catch them off guard, say the Syrian opposition, with no evidence of a drop in civilian casualties during truce.
Earlier this week, the Syrian regime declared a unilateral, nationwide ceasefire lasting 72 hours for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. But the ceasefire seems to have been a ruse.

Usually, the regime-declared ceasefire does not include extremist groups such as al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group. However the regime has liberally applied the 'jihadist' label to most of its enemies, including moderate rebels, giving itself the pretext to virtually strike anywhere in Syria.

The regime used the ceasefire to advance on Castello Road, the rebels' only remaining supply line to the areas it holds in the city of Aleppo, carrying out more massacres against civilians.

On Saturday, the regime declared the extension of the ceasefire for another 72 hours expiring on Monday, portending more carnage.

During the alleged ceasefire, dozens of civilians were killed and injured at the hands of regime forces and their allies in northern Syria, including eight women and four children in the town of Darkush in the Idlib countryside, near the Turkish border, on Friday.
Human rights monitors confirm the number of civilian casualties has not dropped significantly during the ceasefire
"The victims of the air raids in Darkush were mostly refugees who had fled from Idlib and Aleppo fleeing violent bombardment," local sources told The New Arab.

During the ceasefire, the Syrian regime air force also struck the town of Kafr Takharim near Darkush. Several civilians were reported killed or injured. Regime warplanes also struck the town of Jisr al-Shughur in Idlib province.

On Thursday, also during the ceasefire, Russian planes struck neighbourhoods in Aleppo city held by Syrian rebels, killing six including four children, according to monitors.

Scores of civilians were also killed in regime-held areas of Aleppo when rockets fell on the Furqan district. Syrian rebels denied being the source of fire, saying they do not have missiles with a range long enough to strike into the area, nearly 35km away from their nearest lines.

Human rights monitors confirm the number of civilian casualties has not dropped significantly during the ceasefire.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 76 civilians, including 11 children and eight women were killed at the hands of the regime during the 72-hour truce – 29 in Idlib and 34 in Aleppo provinces respectively. 

The SNHR also counted civilian casualties in Damascus, Homs, Daraa and Deir Az-Zour provinces. Twenty-nine civilians, including two women, were also detained by regime forces in the same period.
The most significant military development during the ceasefire was the attempt by regime forces and Iranian-backed militias to seize Castello Road
Battle for Castello

The most significant military development during the ceasefire was the attempt by regime forces and Iranian-backed militias to seize Castello Road and complete the siege of nearly half a million civilians in rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

Regime forces and loyalist militias advanced to the Mallah farm area overlooking the road, leading to fierce fighting that is still ongoing, as rebels scramble to ward off regime forces and secure the road used also by civilians.

Syrian rebels affirm that the regime's "ruse" has not worked, saying this was an old trick.

The government forces, they say, know they cannot otherwise make progress in Aleppo because of the tough resistance put up by the Free Syrian Army there.

"The regime is trying to trick the opposition through its ceasefire declarations," Ahmad Berri, FSA chief of staff told The New Arab.

"The regime wants FSA fighters to drop their weapons so its forces can advance without resistance."

Nevertheless, he added, the rebels have held their ground, despite hundreds of air raids by Syrian and Russian warplanes, using internationally banned weaponry amid international silence.

The Syrian government extended a nationwide ceasefire that expired on Friday for another 72-hours, state media had reported on Saturday.

The Syrian army said in a statement "a regime of calm" would be extended for a period of 72-hours from 1 am on July 9.

The previous 72-hour truce, which was accepted by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) led to no noticeable decrease in violence, and expired on midnight on July 8.

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