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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Syrian truce mostly holds allowing delivery of aid to some besieged towns

The recent cessation of hostilities brokered by Russia and the U.S., agreed to by many in the opposition to Assad and the Assad government, is mainly holding, even though both sides complain of violations.

Riad Hijab, the general coordinator for the opposition, has written a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in which he details alleged breaches of the truth, saying in part:
"Right from the onset of the truce, a large number of violations have been committed by the regime and its allies in several parts of Syria. The regime has continued to target populated areas using helicopter raids to using explosive barrels, resulting in a large number of fatalities and causing significant injuries, most of whom were innocent women and children."Hijab claimed that breaches of the agreement have happened in 26 different areas.
UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, claimed that "every time there has been an incident so far it has been contained." He said the news could be much worse and if the truce continues to hold:"That would be a major booster in confidence-building and trust. Let's not forget, 5 years of horror. 300,000 people killed. 1 million wounded. There is total distrust from the sides. And the first gesture of believing in each other, or at least believing that there is a nonmilitary solution, is the reduction of violence."The truce is aimed at creating the conditions for peace talks among the warring groups. The talks are slated to begin on March 7. However, jihadist groups such as the Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front are not part of the negotiations. In the case of the Nusra Front many of the rebels are concerned attacks still continue on them as they have been key fighters against the Assad regime. Both the U.S. and Russia oppose the two jihadist groups. This certainly helped the two agree on excluding the Nusra Front over the objections of many rebels..
Fighting continued in areas of Aleppo province where Assad and his allies are wresting control from the Islamic State. However Hijab complains Russia was also launching airstrikes against groups that had signed on to the truce. The Assad regime complained in turn that rebel groups were breaking the ceasefire.
President Bashar al-Assad claimed the Syrian army has refrained from responding to truce violations in order to give the agreement a chance even though he said that the rebels had been breaching the truce from the first day. However, he warned that there are limits and whether the truce held depended upon the other side.
Turkey has been unhappy with the truce since the Kurdish groups in Syria are regarded by Erdogan, the president, as terrorists. Recently, mortar attacks were made on a group of 33 journalist touring an area near the Turkish border wrested from the rebels. Reuters reports that the Syrian State news agency claims that the mortar attacks were launched from Turkey. The Turkish president, Erdogan, has been a strong critic of the deal.
The Syrian opposition is hoping that the truce will enable humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas. A UN tweet from the UN shows aid vehicles entering the town of Moadimiyet. Spokesperson, for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Muhannad al-Assadi, told the Associated Press that 51 trucks carrying supplies such as blankets, soap, and diapers were delivering them into the town. The UN is hoping to deliver supplies to more than 150,000 people within the next few weeks. In other good news, the UN World Food Program claimed that it had a record-breaking pledge of $675 million for aid at a conference earlier this month. The appended video is of an aid delivery about a month ago.


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