Russia Holding Off on Hitting al-Nusra Front: Government
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has agreed to hold back targeted airstrikes on the al-Qaida-backed al-Nusra Front in an attempt to give other armed rebel groups time to distance themselves from al-Nusra Front positions.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the ministry said it had received requests from various rebel groups, mainly located in rebel-held parts of Aleppo and Damascus, asking it to temporarily hold the strikes, Reuters reported.
Rebel Conflict Outside of Damascus Resolved in Qatar
A cease-fire was negotiated in Qatar on Tuesday between two Damascus-based rebel groups who have been fighting each other on the outskirts of the capital for weeks.
Around 500 people have been killed since April, when fighting broke out between rival Eastern Ghouta-based rebel groups, Jaish al-Islam and Failaq al-Rahman.
The division has been exploited by the Syrian government to capture valuable territory in recent weeks from the rebel stronghold.
“A complete cease-fire agreement was arrived at, overseen by the High Negotiations Committee [HNC] chief coordinator Dr. Riad Hijab,” Reuters reported from a statement released by Jaish al-Islam overnight.
Qatar has been a major sponsor of armed rebel groups fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the five-year-long war.
Jaish al-Islam, part of the opposition’s HNC and one of the largest rebel factions in Syria, has been the dominant Islamist group in Eastern Ghouta. Failaq al-Rahman, also an Islamist group, has reportedly been sponsored by al-Nusra Front in its fight against Jaish al-Islam.
Food Aid Has Reached 41.9 Percent of Besieged Areas: U.N.
Food Aid has reached more than 41 percent of civilians trapped in besieged areas across the country, but much remains to be done to help the 13.5 million in need, according to a U.N. report released on Wednesday.
Despite the collapse in April of the cessation of hostilities agreement, and a sharp rise in fighting across the country, a monthly report to the security council revealed food assistance had reached more than 200,000 people living in besieged areas – more than double the 21 percent reached in March.
“While that is positive, overall progress is small and fragile,” the report said. “We remain far short of consistently meeting the needs of the 13.5 million civilians in need in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
The report said that of the 35 relief convoys planned for May, intended to reach more than 900,000 people in besieged and hard-to-reach areas, the Syrian government had granted full approval for only 14 as of May 4, and had conditionally approved another eight more.
- Al Jazeera: Where Next for Russia in Syria?
- The New Yorker: The Journey From Syria, Part Three
- The World Bank: The Importance of Planning Syria’s Eventual Reconstruction
- Foreign Affairs: The Southern Front in Syria