Sept 2016 – UPDATE 1215 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has maintained pressure on the US, accusing it of not pursuing the separation of rebels from the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra:
It will be twelve months since [the US assumed the obligation]. Nothing has been done. Moreover, there have been speculations the moderate opposition should not be separated from al-Nusra, but legalized altogether and possibly, merged with ever more groups to create an effective force on the ground for resistance to the Syrian army.
All this will require a very frank discussion.
Lavrov called for the US-Russian agreement to be made public so “there should be no doubts as to how we will go about the business of implementing the agreement”.
UPDATE 1100 GMT: The pro-opposition Aleppo Media Center claims that regime bombing in Aleppo Province killed some civilians and wounded at least 20 this morning.A pro-regime website says that the Syrian army and Hezbollah fired missiles and artillery shells on positions of the rebel bloc Jaish al-Fatah southwest of Aleppo city.
Citing “local activists”, Al-Masdar said that the attack began after “several enemy mortar shells struck their positions” near the village of al-Hadher. It said the town of Khan Tuman and villages of Qarassi and Kalaseh — taken by rebels since the spring — had been targeted.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: A ceasefire began across Syria from sundown on Monday, although reports of fighting continued.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who pursued the cessation with Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov, was upbeat in his summary to reporters:
The earliest reports are that there is some reduction in violence as well as a few reports of fighting here and there though it is far too early to draw any definitive conclusions.
There will undoubtedly be reports of violations here or there but that is the nature of the beginning of the ceasefire almost always.
Pro-opposition outlets reported attacks by regime forces. According to Orient News, helicopters dropped barrel bombs north of Aleppo city and a pro-Assad strike hit Taibat al-Imam, captured by rebels in their offensive in northern Hama Province earlier this month.
The site said missiles hit a village east of Damascus. Shelling and mortars reportedly killed one person in the town of Douma.
Journalist Elizabeth Tsurkov reports on a regime attack in southern Syria:
Just before the start of the ceasefire, the regime maintained its escalation of airstrikes from the weekend. At least 13 people were killed and dozens wounded in Ma’aret Mesreen in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, in attacks which reportedly included cluster bombs. At least 11 died in Douma, and 30 were seriously wounded. Towns and villages across northern Homs Province were also attacked.
Rebels shelled the Hama military airport with Grad rockets, although it was unclear if this was before or after the start of the ceasefire.
In Aleppo city, the focus of discussions over a ceasefire and aid efforts, quiet was reported overnight.
The Syrian armed forces claimed that several mortars were fired by rebels in and near Aleppo city, and that rebels attacks attacked military posts in northern Homs Province.
The armed groups breached the truce regime by targeting with sniper and gun fire a military post in Tasnim village at 20: 45 pm and by targeting with machine gun fire military posts in Kfernan northwest of Homs at 21:00 pm on Monday.
Another breach of the truce took place at 22:15 pm on Monday where the armed groups targeted with machine gun fire military posts on Masyaf-Khirbet al-Sawda in the same part of Homs countryside.
The truce regime is applied across Syria for seven days as of 19:00 on September 12th 2016 and until 23:59 on September 18th.
Kerry: Intelligence-Sharing with Russia on Airstrikes
Kerry noted that the US will begin sharing of intelligence with Russia for airstrikes after the first seven days of the ceasefire and the beginning of aid to some besieged areas. He also declared, “As soon as U.S.-Russia strikes begin, then the Syrian regime will be prevented from flying combat missions over areas in which the legitimate opposition is present.”
However, the Secretary of State then fed confusion with his indication that attacks might be carried out against the jihadists of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, despite the ceasefire. He emphasized that rebels, who fight alongside the jihadists on some battle fronts, must “separate” themselves from JFS/Nusra.
Russia has used the strikes on JFS/Nusra as a pretext to hit opposition areas since its military intervention last September, and it has pressed the US to accept this by saying that rebels must be “separated” from the jihadists.
Kerry even said that the Assad regime, in co-operation with Russia and the US, could attack JFS/Nusra: [Assad] is allowed and will be able — outside of that area that is set up [which cannot be attacked] — to target Nusra, but that will be on strikes which are agreed upon with Russia and the United States.
State Department spokesman John Kirby was forced to clarify later: We have seen reports, based on the Secretary’s comments…this afternoon, that the US and Russia could approve of strikes by the Syrian regime. This is incorrect.
The arrangement announced last week makes no provision whatsoever for the US and Russia to approve strikes by the Syrian regime, and this is not something we could ever envision doing. A primary purpose of this agreement from our perspective, is to prevent the Syrian regime air force from flying or striking in any areas in which the opposition or Nusra are present.
Kerry also claimed that the ceasefire is designed to bring the resumption of negotiations on a political transition in Syria — even though President Assad has ruled out any transitional governing authority and his eventual departure from power. www.mesop.de