Assad regime and rebels reach landmark truce in besieged town

Updated 28 December 2013

Assad regime and rebels reach landmark truce in besieged town

BEIRUT: The Syrian government and rebels in a besieged town near Damascus have reached a landmark truce agreement to allow aid access to trapped civilians, an activist told AFP on Wednesday.
Under the truce in Moadamiyet Al-Sham, the official flag was raised over the area on Wednesday and will be flown for 72 hours, in exchange for much-needed food supplies for thousands of trapped civilians, said Abu Malek of the town’s opposition Local Council.
“A truce came into force on Wednesday, and the people have accepted as a gesture of goodwill to fly the regime flag over the town’s water towers,” Abu Malek said via the Internet.
“Food should be allowed into the town on Thursday. If this goes well, we will hand over the heavy weapons, but the regime army will not enter the town,” he added.
“Then in the next phase, people who were displaced should be allowed to return home, without being arrested, and the checkpoints around the city must be removed,” said Abu Malek.
A source close to Assad’s regime confirmed that there had been a truce agreement, but said the army would enter into the town in order to ensure all the weapons had been handed over.
According to Abu Malek, Moadamiyet Al-Sham residents are divided over the agreement.
Some believe “it is more important to feed the civilian women and children,” while another, more radical section of the opposition, does not want to be perceived as giving in, he said.
“But either way the revolution continues, and we will see what the regime has to offer. If they honor the conditions, then very well. If not, then it will be back to fighting,” said Abu Malek.
He noted that on Wednesday, there was no shelling on the town for the first time in many months.
In October, some 3,800 civilians were evacuated from Moadamiyet Al-Sham by the Red Crescent in coordination with the Syrian authorities and the opposition.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Moadamiyet Al-Sham was originally home to some 15,000 people.


Turkish shelling kills 9 regime personnel in NW Syria: monitor

Updated 25 February 2020

Turkish shelling kills 9 regime personnel in NW Syria: monitor

  • UN says it was trying to double aid deliveries across a border crossing from Turkey from 50 to 100 trucks a day.
  • Idlib has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee the violence

BEIRUT: Turkish shelling Monday killed nine regime fighters in northwest Syria, where Ankara-backed rebels are fighting off advancing regime forces, a monitor said.
Syrian regime forces have since December clawed back parts of the last major opposition bastion of Idlib in violence that has displaced almost a million people.
Fighting raged on Monday, killing almost 100 fighters on both sides around the jihadist-dominated bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Those included 41 pro-regime fighters, as well as 53 jihadists and allied rebels.
Overall on Monday, the regime advanced rapidly in the south of the bastion, but lost the town of Nayrab along the M4 highway to Turkish-backed rebels in the southeast.
Turkish shelling in that area killed four regime fighters near Nayrab and another five near the town of Saraqeb to its east, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Opposition fighters had already broken back into Nayrab last week after the regime seized it at the start of the month, but then lost it again several hours later.
Saraqeb, which lies at the intersection of the M4 and another important highway the M5, has been under regime control since February 8.
Earlier Monday, Russian air strikes killed five civilians in the Jabal Al-Zawiya area in the south of the bastion, the Observatory said.
In fighting on the ground, regime forces seized 10 towns and villages south of the M4, which links the coastal regime stronghold of Latakia to government-held second city Aleppo, it said.
State news agency SANA, for its part, said “units of the Syrian army continued to progress in the south of Idlib” province.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the regime’s aim was to wrest back control of stretches of the M4 still under the control of jihadists and allied rebels.
That would require operations against the towns of Ariha and Jisr Al-Shughur, both along the M4.
Analysts expect a tough battle for Jisr Al-Shughur, held by the jihadist Turkistan Islamic Party whose fighters mainly hail from China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
They are allied to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate which dominates the Idlib region.
Loyalist forces have already taken back control of the M5, which connects the capital with Aleppo.
They have also secured the region around the northern city, a major pre-war industrial hub.
Fighting in northwest Syria since December has forced some 900,000 people to flee their homes and shelters amid bitter cold.
The United Nations said Monday that the latest fighting was coming “dangerously close” to encampments of the displaced, risking an imminent “bloodbath.”
Mark Cutts, a UN humanitarian coordinator, also told reporters in Geneva that the world body was trying to double aid deliveries across a border crossing with Turkey from 50 to 100 trucks a day.
Syria’s war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.