Despite the much-touted “cessation of hostilities” agreement in Syria, which was supposed to halt attacks from all parties except ISIS and al-Qaeda, furious battles between rebels and Syrian government forces continue to inflict heavy casualties in the strategically vital city of Aleppo.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department announced that the cessation of hostilities agreement had been “extended” to Aleppo.
While Reuters declared Russia “agreed” to this extension in their headline, the body of their report states “there was no immediate response from Moscow to the announcement of the agreement.”
Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly “called on Russia to use its influence over President Bashar al-Assad to stop the violence,” during a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. This call from Kerry would also seem to cast doubt on the notion that the Russians have already agreed to the cease-fire.
There was, however, a statement from the Syrian army that a “regime of calm” would be inaugurated in Aleppo for Thursday and Friday. The BBC reports some Aleppo residents venturing outside for the first time in days on Thursday, although there was a fatality from shelling the previous night. Nearly 300 people have reportedly been killed in Aleppo over the past two weeks.
The Russians seem inclined to blame Syrian rebels for breaking the truce. “The deterioration in certain areas of Syria, including Aleppo, is a serious source of concern. The government forces are fighting off a large-scale offensive by the jihadists,” said Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin.
Fox News reports that Syrian president Bashar Assad sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin that suggested little appetite for a permanent cease-fire. In the letter, Assad declared his forces would ultimately seize victory in Aleppo, comparing the situation to the siege of Stalingrad in World War II, and his forces to the Red Army troops that defeated Nazi invaders.
The most recent airstrikes in northern Syria struck a refugee camp, killing at least 28 people. There was also pair of suicide bombings in the central Syrian province of Homs — a vicious attack in which a car bomb was detonated first, drawing a crowd of people anxious to help the victims. The crowd was then attacked by a second suicide bomber on a motorcycle.
Responsibility for both the airstrikes and suicide bombings is currently unknown, although Fox News notes ISIS has carried out similar bombings in the Homs area, and it is currently fighting the Syrian government for control of the nearby Shaer gas field.
A salvo of rockets was also fired at Turkey from ISIS-controlled territory in Syria on Thursday, wounding at least four people.