Syrian Rebels Say Attacked By Assad Forces In Breach Of Ceasefire

Smoke rises from the Syrian city of Tel Abyad during clashes between Islamic State Group and People's Protection Units (YPG)

A Syrian rebel commander said on Saturday that government shelling had stopped in some parts of Syria but continued elsewhere in what he described as a violation of a cessation of hostilities agreement that came into effect at midnight.

Fares Bayoush, head of the Fursan al-Haqq rebel group which fights under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, told Reuters that continued violations could lead to a collapse in the agreement.

“There are areas where the bombardment has stopped but there are areas where there are violations by the regime such as Kafr Zeita in Hama, via targeting with artillery, and likewise in Morek in northern Hama countryside,” he said, adding that FSA groups remain committed to the truce.

Bayoush said it was normal for violations to take place in any truce but the other side should halt them if it was serious about the agreement.

Syrian rebels in the country’s northwest said they came under attack from government ground forces at 4am (2am GMT) on Saturday.

Three fighters from the rebel Second Coastal Division were killed while repelling the attack in the Jabal Turkman area near the Turkish border in Latakia province, Fadi Ahmad, spokesman for the affiliated First Coastal Division, told Reuters.

“It is a violation (of the agreement),” Ahmad said, describing the attack as a ground assault with no air strikes. “Currently, the regime has halted the attack,” he added.

The First and Second Coastal Divisions are part of a loose alliance of rebel groups known as the Free Syrian Army.

Northwestern Syria is one of the areas where the Nusra Front operates near rebel groups that have approved the cessation of hostilities. Ahmad said the positions attacked on Saturday are controlled by his group, and the Nusra Front has no presence there. Nusra has called for an escalation of attacks.

In the Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, government forces reportedly dropped two barrel bombs and opened fire on positions of the Syrian rebel group Jaish al-Islam.

Citing field reports from the group’s commanders, Jaish al-Islam spokesman Islam Alloush told Reuters that in one incident government forces trying to advance “were dealt with with machine guns”.

The Syrian military denied having breached the ceasefire. The Syrian government has said it will respect the agreement drawn up by Russia and the United States, but that it will continue to fight the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and Islamic State which are not covered by the deal.


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