Rebels Claim Assad Has Violated Syrian Army-Imposed Ceasefire Ahead of Peace Talks

SYRIA, Damascus : DAMASCUS, SYRIA - FEBRUARY 26: Smoke rises after the war crafts belonging to the Syrian army bombed the residential areas in opposition controlled Al-Qabun town of eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on February 26, 2016. Muhammed Khair / Anadolu Agency
Muhammed Khair / Anadolu Agency/AFP

The Syrian army declared a ceasefire in the southern part of the country on Monday in preparation for peace talks in Astana, but rebel forces claim that airstrikes have continued regardless.

On Monday, the Syrian government announced the five-day ceasefire ahead of a series of Russian sponsored peace talks in the Kazakhstani capital of Astana, the government-run news agency SANA reported.

“In order to support the peace process and the national reconciliations, the hostilities in the southern region (Daraa, Quneitra, and Sweida) have been halted as of 2/7/2017 at 12:00 pm and till 6/7/2017 at 00:00 am,” the Army Command wrote in a statement.

However, despite the announcement, rebel forces and civilians reported that the Syrian army continued to drop barrel bombs on the town of Naima, near the Jordanian border. As a result, certain factions of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) will boycott the talks, citing the Russian’s failure to enforce the ceasefire.

“This ceasefire is an attempt by the Russians and the regime to bring back the opposition to Astana and give them assurances on the ground they will stop the shelling on condition they attend,” said Sohaib Alraheel, spokesperson of Liwa al Furqan Brigades, a faction of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) operating in southwest Syria.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition, backed by Western governments, told Reuters that they remained “very distrustful” of Syria’s commitment to maintaining the ceasefire while also accusing the regime of “lying.”

“We had cast doubt on the ceasefire the moment it was announced and knew it would not be different from previous ones. The regime is lying and the Russians are lying and are not serious in achieving a ceasefire,” the spokesperson said. “The Russians are duplicitous and procrastinating and are part of the problem and so cannot be part of its solution,” Rayes added.

In May, Iran, Russia, and Turkey agreed on a de-escalation plan designed to create four separate “safe zones” in Syria. The United Nations soon issued a report that determined the effort had proved ineffective.

“Whether it be the unrestrained use of airstrikes against residential neighborhoods, attacks against doctors and hospitals, or the use of suicide bombers that deliberately target civilians, fighting remains brutal in purpose and reprehensible in method,” said Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chair of the U.N. Commission.

An analysis by the Syrian National Coalition in January claimed that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russian airstrikes and Iran-allied fighters, violated truce agreements in Syria 399 times in the first 11 days.

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