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Russia calls for two day Syria truce extension

Children in the East Ghoutta suburb of Damascus enjoy the Eid ceasefire [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 September, 2016

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Russia has said it will extend a ceasefire agreement by 48 hours, despite claiming rebels have violated the truce at least 60 times.

Russia's defence ministry has called for a 48-hour extension to a ceasefire in Syria which began at sunset on Monday despite alleging violations by rebel groups. 

Viktor Poznikhir, a senior military officer, told Russian media that Moscow had called for "the extension of the cessation of hostilities on all Syrian territory for 48 hours" while at the same time claiming that opposition groups had already violated the ceasefire.

The military figure said that rebels had broken the truce at least 60 times, but there has been sceptism about these claims.

Much of Russia's "proof" of rebels breaking the ceasefire lies in videos showing reporters and soldiers under fire.

However, the production leaves much to be desired, and many believe that the scenes are obviously staged.

Among the groups outside the truce agreement is the Islamic State group and bombing and fighting in areas occupied by the jihadi group have continued with dozens dead yesterday in Deir az-Zour and other areas.

Poznikhir stated that while Russia was keeping its side of the truce bargain its military aircraft had targeted a group of Islamic State fighters near the ancient ruins of Palymra in Homs province.

Approximately 250 IS gunmen and 15 vehicles mounted with large-caliber machine-guns were destroyed in the airstrikes according to Poznikhir. Therse statistics were shared by AFP and the Russian state-affiliated news website Sputnik.

However, despite the Russian-US brokered truce coming into effect Monday night Reuters reported that two aid convoys destined for Aleppo remained stuck in no man's land after crossing into Syria from the Turkish border.

The news agency reported that delays to the passage of the two convoys – each of around 20 trucks carrying mainly food and flour – showed signs that despite the truce ongoing security concerns, and disagreements within rebel ranks continued to stymie the flow of aid to those in need within Syria.
A full day and no jets or helicopters in the sky (above the city) waiting to drop hell-fire, something people here are not used to.
- Zouhir al-Shimale, Aleppo-based journalist

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has since revealed he is in talks with Russia and the United States to ensure all sides in Syria guarantee the security of UN aid convoys preparing to head to Aleppo.

More than 20 rebel groups aligned to the northern branch of the Free Syrian Army rejected the ceasefire agreement which came into effect at dusk on Monday. These groups, who raised objection to the exclusion of Fatah al-Sham - formerly the Nusra Front – from the ceasefire include Jaish al-Islam, the Levant Front, and the Nour al-Deen al-Zinki.

However, in Aleppo itself the truce has largely held allowing locals in both rebel and regime controlled areas of the divided city an opportunity for respite away from the threat of death and destruction.

"A full day and no jets or helicopters in the sky (above the city) waiting to drop hell-fire, something people here are not used to (anymore). It was totally calm," relayed Zouhir al-Shimale, a local journalist, speaking to The New Arab from rebel-held Aleppo.

Shimale said that the temporary cessation in hostilities had given hope to many in opposition-controlled Aleppo. However he urged caution.

"Its progress, people are looking forward to not just supplies and aid but … truly an end to the war, and having their lives back," he added.

"On the other hand (there is) still no water, no electricity, the food is still running out and is increasing in price. The price of meat doubled because of Eid. There are very few sheep (here)."

Whilst Aleppo remained largely calm Wednesday the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) did report incidents of shelling in the agricultural town of Bayanun in the Aleppo countryside, and elsewhere in Syria in Deir az-Zour province, the suburbs of Damascus, and in the Quneitra countryside north of Daraya.

SOHR reported that the Syrian government was responsible for these incidents. However no casualties have been reported to date.

Agencies contributed to this report

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