Syrian rivals blame each other for breaking ceasefire

The regime said it would disallow aid that had not been co-ordinated with Damascus and the UN.

Published: 14th September 2016 08:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th September 2016 08:38 AM   |  A+A-

BEIRUT: THE Syrian government and its opponents traded accusations of violating the ceasefire yesterday (Tuesday) as the US and Russian-brokered truce endured a shaky start.

Hours after the sunset deadline came into effect on Monday, air attacks and shelling were reported across the country.

Several regime strikes hit opposition-held areas of Homs, Hama and Deir Ezzor, while two soldiers were killed by rebel fighters on the road into Aleppo.

The government said yesterday that it retained the right to defend itself when provoked and would continue to target Isil and the previously al-Qaeda-aligned Jabhat Fatah al-Sham.

However, it is unclear exactly what amounts to an infraction under the agreement as the text has not been made public, which the Russians blamed on US objections.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said it was "far too early to draw conclusions" about the success of the ceasefire, but urged all sides to seize the opportunity.

"For all the doubts that remain, and there will be challenges in the days to come, this plan has a chance to work," he said. "I urge all the parties to support it because it may be the last chance that one has to save a united Syria."

The real test of the deal will be in whether President Bashar al-Assad's government, and its Russian backers, allow the delivery of aid to the estimated 600,000 people in besieged areas. The rebel-held eastern side of Aleppo, the most bitterly contested part of the country, has been subjected to repeated blockades over the past month after pro-government troops captured the last route out.

The United Nations said the situation was not yet calm enough to attempt delivery and sought guarantees for its security, but Turkey sent in 20 trucks carrying food and clothes.

The regime said it would disallow aid that had not been co-ordinated with Damascus and the UN.

Aside from the handful of infractions, Syria remained mostly calm yesterday. The lull in violence was welcomed by residents of east Aleppo, who have faced daily bombardment from Syrian and Russian warplanes.

Abdulkafi al-Hamdo, an English teacher, said all was quiet after midnight on Monday. "Fortunately we were all able to sleep soundly for the first time in months," he told The Daily Telegraph. "But people don't expect much from the ceasefire."

The country has seen several failed truces during the five-year-old war. The last one, in February, began promisingly before descending into some of the bloodiest violence of the conflict.

However, architects of the new deal hope the truce will hold and that the period of calm will help pave the way for peace talks, which have stalled.

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