Syria fighting 'freeze' to begin, but burning Aleppo excluded
Russia and the US have agreed to enforce a freeze in Syria's fighting on two fronts, but war-torn Aleppo will not be included in the truce.
Eastern Ghouta, in the Damascus suburbs, and Latakia province, on Syria's coast, should see a pause in fighting from midnight onwards. Damascus said the freeze in fighting will only come into effect at 1am giving it more time to pound rebel areas.
It is hoped the truce will last for 24 hours in Ghouta and 72 hours in Latakia, where clashes between rebels and the regime have become intense battles.
The ambiguity of the new truce and the phrasing by US and Russian officials (also described as a "regime of silence") would confirm what everyone already agreed: the February cessation of hostilities has ended.
Michael Ratney, US special envoy to Syria, described the agreement as a "general recommitment" to that truce "not a new set of local ceasefires".
"Likewise, persistent violations in Aleppo have stressed the Cessation of Hostilities and are unacceptable," he said. "We are talking to Russia to urgently agree on steps to reduce violence in that area as well."
However, Russia did not agree to a US proposal to include Aleppo in the freeze, despite the fact that the city has been reeling from days of shelling and bombing.
|Friday prayers in rebel districts of Aleppo were cancelled for the first time as Muslim leaders feared another massacre would follow killing of over 200 people this week – the vast majority from regime shells and rockets – including 50 women and children|
Friday prayers in rebel districts of Aleppo were cancelled for the first time as Muslim leaders feared another massacre would follow killing of over 226 people this week – the vast majority from regime shells and rockets – including 50 women and children.
At another regime controlled section of the city, a congregation of worshippers outside a mosque were said to be hit by rebel mortars, which Damascus claimed killed 15.
Another health clinic is opposition district of Aleppo was also hit by regime rockets, following the destruction of a hospital just the day before, with dozens killed.
Make-shift hospitals are struggling to cope with the mounting injuries.
Meanwhile, the empty Russian consulate was also hit with shells, which Moscow said were fired by Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Nusra Front, which is not party to the ceasefire.
Many believe that the exclusion of Nusra and the Islamic State group from the ceasefire has given the Syrian regime and Russia carte blanche to bomb and raid any rebel territory it chooses, whether controlled by extremist groups or not.
It has effectively allowed the regime to shell and bomb areas covered by the ceasefire for two months, and slowly expand its control over Syria's largest city.