Syria ceasefire set to begin after weekend of carnage

Syria ceasefire set to begin after weekend of carnage
3 min read
12 September, 2016
Over 90 killed in pro-regime airstrikes following Friday's ceasefire announcement by the US and Russia.
A Free Syrian Army fighter stands guard during Eid prayers in Jarablus [Anadolu]

At sundown on Monday, Syria's 48-hour ceasefire will begin after a weekend of unabated bloodshed in the run up to the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Since Friday's ceasefire announcement, over 90 people have been killed by regime airstrikes, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR].

"People were shopping before the Eid al-Adha next week, which is why the toll is so high," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman after Saturday's strikes.

The escalation in attacks came just hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry's announcement speech in Geneva. The strikes targeted rebel-held areas in the northwestern city of Idlib and Aleppo in the country's north.

In Idlib alone, at least 61 people were killed and over 100 wounded in an attack on a crowded market, an eyewitness speaking to CNN reported.

"We heard a whistling sound then the explosions," said the man, who identified himself as 'Omar'.

"Two or three rockets landed in middle of the market. We left the car where we were and headed towards the site of explosion."

Omar also reported that members of the Syria Civil Defence teams - or 'White Helmets' - could not reach the area due to road closures.

Bleak prospects

Saturday and Sunday's carnage took place despite Russian and American efforts is securing the agreement of Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad. This is likely to stiffen the resolve of the factions of Syria's armed opposition who have rejected the ceasefire.

Ahrar al-Sham, one of Syria's biggest rebel groups, dismissed the deal in a statement released hours before the deal is set to be enacted on Monday.

The rebel group claimed that the deal will "reinforce" the Syrian regime and "increase the suffering" of civilians.

"The people cannot accept half-solutions," Ali al-Omar, the group's leader said, shortly before the start of Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday.

"The Russian-American deal... will send all the sacrifices and gains of our people who have risen up into smoke. It will only serve to reinforce the regime and surround the revolution militarily."

Omar also rejected another key demand in the deal that rebel groups should break ties with Fateh al-Sham - formerly the al-Nusra Front. The anti-regime force has been accused by Russia and the US of still being aligned al-Qaeda. 

This is while Syria's political opposition have said that they will respect the deal, albeit with similar reservations.

"We agree in principle to a total ceasefire, however, the deal allows the US and Russia to carry out air raids with a pause from the regime, this means they think the only terrorism is Sunni terrorism," Syrian High Negotiations Committee [HNC] spokesman Riad Nassan Agha told The New Arab on Saturday.

"Lavrov and Kerry have omitted the thousands of terrorists from around the world fighting alongside the regime such as Hizballah, Harakat al-Nujaba and others. The deal has also failed to mention Iran's role."

The HNC spokesman added that the agreement will not protect civilians living in areas held by terrorists because there are currently no safe zones for them to evacuate to.