Syria violence kills 4, wounds child despite safe zones

Cheryl Sanders
May 9, 2017

It raised the prospect that after years of government opponents asking the U.S. and its allies for a no-fly zone to protect civilians from the Syrian military's bombings, it could end up being Russia, Syria's ally, that imposes one. The wide array of rebel groups include some supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.

Osama Abo Zayd, a spokesman for the Syrian military factions in Astana said the zones raise "a number of questions", adding that Moscow still has no answers on how to deal with any violations from its ally Damascus or from Iran, which has a number of fighters on the ground in Syria on the government's side.

But neither the government nor the rebels were direct signatories to the deal, and the opposition's reaction was lukewarm.

The HNC also said the deal was an attempt to give Syrian government troops military victories they could not achieve on the battleground by neutralising rebel-held areas and called on the United States and other Arab allied countries to prevent the implementation of the deal.

Earlier, a Pentagon spokesman, US Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, referred CNN to the State Department for comment but said the de-escalation zones are west of where ISIS operates in Syria.

The Observatory said government forces shelled and bombed the nearby town of Latamneh and surrounding areas.

There was no immediate comment from the US military or from the Trump administration, which sent a representative, Stuart E. Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state, to the talks.

The limitations could throw up obstacles for any potential U.S. operations in Syria in the future after President Donald Trump carried out Washington's first direct strike on the forces of Russian ally Bashar al-Assad last month over an alleged chemical weapons attack.

According to media reports, the plan allows for Russia, Turkey and Iran to continue fighting ISIL, as well as al-Qaeda-affiliated groups inside the safe zones.

The memorandum took effect on Saturday.

Moscow says that includes flight and strikes by Syrian war planes and air raids by the US -led coalition. Significantly, this would also include air strikes.

The chemical incident prompted the fire dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase from which it said the attack had been launched, increasing tensions between the USA and Russian Federation.

Col. -Gen. Sergei Rudskoi told reporters on Friday that the "work of checkpoints and observation posts, as well as the management of security zones, will be carried out by the personnel and formations of Russia, Turkey and Iran".

Under the plan, Assad's air force, and presumably the Russians, too, would also halt flights over those areas.

Iran, Russia and Turkey brokered the deal during talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura hailed the plan as a step in the right direction towards a real cessation of hostilities.

If it worked, the ceasefire could be extended with the agreement of all parties, a memorandum said on Saturday.

Still, analysts say the implementation will likely happen if Turkey, the main backer of the rebels, signed the deal, as the rebels can not survive without the crucial support of Turkey and Arab Gulf states.

The US expressed concern over Iran, saying the country had "only contributed to the violence, not stopped it".

The deal envisions safe zones throughout the western half of Syria, in the "Idlib province and certain parts of the neighbouring provinces Latakia, Hama and Aleppo", as well as in the Homs, Daraa and Quneitra provinces and the Ghouta district in the area of Damascus.

Other reports by iNewsToday