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Syria Truce Hangs in the Balance Amid Attacks, Lack of Aid

George Sabra, of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, said that the truce has been repeatedly violated
By The News · 19 of September 2016 07:26:30
The entrance of the Waer district is pictured in the central Syrian city of Homs, Syria, photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki, photo: Reuters/Omar Sanadiki

Syria’s week-long cease-fire, brokered by the United States and Russia, was in doubt Monday amid repeated violations and with no aid deliveries to the besieged rebel-held part of the northern city of Aleppo, a key point in the truce agreement.

The uncertainty cast doubts on a U.S.-Russian plan to set up a coordination center that would plan strikes against militants in the country.

The two sides, which brokered the truce earlier this month, had said that if it holds for seven days, it would be followed by the establishment of a Joint Implementation Center for both countries to coordinate the targeting of Islamic State group (I.S.) and al-Qaida-linked militants.

As violations mount, a senior Syrian opposition official declared the cease-fire “clinically dead,” adding that government forces have violated the truce all over the country.

For its part, the Syrian army, which endorsed the U.S.-Russia deal, had said in a statement that the cease-fire would end at midnight Sunday. There have been remarks from the Syrian military in Damascus that the truce might be extended by 72 hours.

A Syrian activist group said 92 people have been killed in Syria since the start of the cease-fire. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 29 children and teenagers were among those killed, as well as 17 women.

The figure does not include dozens of Syrian soldiers and Islamic State militants killed in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, the Observatory said Monday.

On Sunday, rebel-held parts of Aleppo were targeted in aerial attacks for the first time since the truce went into effect, leaving a woman dead and several people wounded, according to opposition activists. A helicopter attack on the southern village of Dael killed at least eight people, activists said.

The opposition blamed government warplanes.

Also Monday, the opposition reported 254 violations by government forces and their allies since the truce started on Sept. 12. Syrian state media said there were 32 violations by rebels on Sunday alone.

George Sabra, of the opposition High Negotiations Committee, said that the truce has been repeatedly violated and did not succeed in its main objective — opening roads for aid to enter besieged rebel-held areas.

“Hundreds of thousands of people in Aleppo are waiting for this truce to allow aid to enter the city,” he said, adding that there are aid trucks still waiting on the Turkey-Syria border. “I believe that the truce is clinically dead.”

Meanwhile, Syrian state TV reported that government warplanes attacked positions of the Islamic State group in eastern Deir el-Zour province on Monday. The station said the airstrikes targeted IS positions in areas such as the Tharda Mountain, which overlooks the airport of the city of Deir el-Zour.

The areas hit are close to Syrian army positions that were targeted on Saturday by the U.S.-led coalition. Australian, British and Danish warplanes were involved in that attack on Syrian army positions.

Russia’s military has said that it was told by the Syrian army that at least 62 Syrian soldiers were killed in the Deir el-Zour air raid and more than 100 wounded. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a different death toll, saying 90 troops were killed in the strikes.

Syria and Russia blasted Washington over the attack.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that “American” warplanes repeatedly attacked Syrian army positions the pervious afternoon. It said the airstrikes were “on purpose and planned in advance,” and killed dozens of Syrian soldiers.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a new push by Turkish forces and Syrian rebels aimed at capturing a town held by I.S.

Erdoğan said the Syrian opposition forces, backed by Turkish troops and tanks, are determined to advance toward al-Bab to clear the region of terror threats. The offensive, he said, will last until the area “is no longer a threat” to Turkey.

Last month, Turkey for the first time sent tanks across the border into Syria to help rebels clear territory of I.S. militants and to contain the expansion of a Syrian Kurdish militia.