The Cease-Fire Has Effectively Collapsed: Monitor
Government and rebel bombardments killed at least 30 civilians over the weekend, threatening to bring an end to the troubled eight-week-old cease-fire in Syria after peace talks between the two sides paused earlier last week.
The head of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, said escalating violence meant that the truce between Bashar al-Assad’s government and non-jihadist rebels, established in late February, had essentially collapsed.
“Most of the areas that were under the cease-fire are now seeing fighting again,” he said.
The landmark cease-fire deal brokered by Russia and the United States had raised hopes that the U.N.-led talks in Geneva, which paused last week after the opposition’s delegation suspended its participation due to escalating violence, would bring a political end to the five-year war.
U.S. president Barack Obama urged both the conflict’s warring parties to “reinstate” the cease-fire, telling reporters in Germany that he had spoken with Russian president Vladimir Putin about ways to bolster the crumbling truce.
Salem Meslet, a spokesman for the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), called on Putin to hold his allies in Damascus to the terms of the cease-fire, “The key to ending these attacks, and to making progress in the talks, lies in Moscow,” he told the Associated Press.
Airstrikes and shelling pounded both sides of the divided city of Aleppo for the third straight day on Sunday, killing two young siblings in the opposition-held half of the city.
Government airstrikes on Saturday killed 12 civilians in Aleppo, civil defense officials toldAgence France Press, while the Syrian state news agency SANA reported that rebel shelling targeting government-held areas of the city had killed three civilians and wounded 17 others.
Abdulrahman at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government shelling on the rebel-held city of Douma, east of Damascus, killed another 13 civilians, and that airstrikes on the town of Talbisseh in Homs had killed another two men.
A similar barrage of rocket fire and airstrikes on Friday killed 25 civilians and wounded nearly 40 others.
Obama to Send Another 250 U.S. Troops to Syria
President Obama is expected to announce Monday his plans to send an additional 250 U.S. troops to Syria, a significant expansion of the American military presence working alongside Syrian forces against the Islamic State group (ISIS).
The deployment will increase the official American presence in Syria from 50 to 300 troops, with the aim of capitalizing on recent gains made against ISIS.
“The 250 additional personnel, who will deploy into Syria in phases, will include special operations forces, as well as a number of service members who will provide support to those forces, including medical, intelligence and logistics personnel,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.
The escalation, however, is not indicative of a large-scale U.S. intervention in Syria.
As recently as Sunday, in a meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel in which the two discussed the safe zones for civilians in Syria, President Obama highlighted his concern over the rising levels of violence, reaffirming his administration’s commitment to finding a political solution to the conflict.
“We remain deeply concerned about the upsurge in fighting in Syria over the last several days,”Obama said. “And we continue to agree that the only real, durable solution is a political solution that moves Syria towards an inclusive government that represents all Syrians.”
Kurdish and Pro-Government Militias Declare Truce
Kurdish security forces and pro-Syrian government militias established a cease-fire over the weekend in the country’s northeast, after three days of violent clashes killed more than 26 people.
The Kurdish Asayish forces said in a statement on Saturday that the cease-fire in Qamishli, which went into effect on Friday afternoon, was holding.
Asayish forces seized a number of government positions, including a central prison, in Qamishli during the three days of fighting. But according to a Reuters witness the Kurdish forces had not withdrawn from any of the recently gained territory.
The city of Qamishli, along the Turkish border, is primarily controlled by Kurdish militias, which have established an autonomous region across the country’s northeast, but pro-Assad militias still control a few strategic areas in Qamishli’s city center, as well as its airport.
Last week’s violent clashes marked the second-largest outbreak of fighting between Kurdish forces and those loyal to Bashar al-Assad since the war in Syria began in 2011.
- The Associated Press: In Damascus, an Uneasy Stability Boosts Syria’s Assad
- The Guardian: Syria’s Shadowlands: ‘He wanted to Go Home. When he Died, I Felt I’d Failed him’
- Doctors Without Borders: Situation Critical for Tens of Thousands Displaced Over 10 Days
- Newsweek: Syria Crisis: The Man Who Stares at Boats
- Al-Monitor: Salafi Armed Groups Increase Attacks in Syria