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Paul McLoughlin

Syrian rebel groups reject ceasefire with regime

The northern FSA brigades have rejected the US-Russian brokered ceasefire agreement [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 September, 2016

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In-depth: A group of Syrian rebel groups linked to the Free Syrian Army say they have rejected a truce with the regime arguing it will only benefit Assad.
More than 20 rebel groups have rejected a ceasefire agreement with the Syrian regime, which came into effect at dusk on Monday.

The groups are aligned to the northern branch of the Free Syrian Army and their announcement highlights a broad rejection of the Russian-US brokered truce by the rebels.

Among the signatories of a statement are Jaish al-Islam, the Levant Front, Nour al-Deen al-Zinki, the Islamic Union, and the Conquest Brigade. 

They said the terms of the ceasefire agreement favour Bashar al-Assad's regime. They also rejected the exclusion of Fatah al-Sham - formerly the Nusra Front - from the deal.

Counter-revolutionary?

The 20 groups which signed the joint statement said they rejected the truce proposals based on "our commitment to improve the Syrian people's humanitarian condition so as not to undermine the principles and interests of the revolution".

They viewed the truce as a "quick gain" to allow some aid into opposition areas, but said it risked the "future of the revolution and strategic positions against the regime and its allies".

There have already been reports of pro-regime militias heading up to Aleppo, which civilians fear could be in preparation for a new offensive on the city.

Many in the opposition expect Damascus to use the quiet time as a chance to build up its forces in key strategic areas, and launch offensives in places like Aleppo when they can.

This is what happened in February, when a similar ceasefire was broken after a wave of air raids on Aleppo by Russian bombers punctured the silence and a ground offensive by pro-regime fighters led again to all-out-war.
Our faith in the 'weak' international community is lost, thus the only solution left is to continue the fight against the regime until the last breathe.

The response from the international community then was silence.
In pictures: Click here for Zouhir al-Shimale's photoessay
on East Aleppo's marketplace



"Our faith in the 'weak' international community is lost, thus the only solution left is to continue the fight against the regime until the last breathe," Tuesday's statement read.

"The agreement does not include any real guarantees or mechanisms in case the regime and its allies violate the ceasefire," point six of the statement read.

"[This] will encourage [the regime] to seek more strategic military gains."

Subdued but tense

Despite some parts of the country witnessing partial breakdowns in the ceasefire, Aleppo was comparatively quiet on Tuesday.

Read more: Aleppo - a quiet day amid the storm of chaos


Over the weekend, the inhabitants of Aleppo bore the brunt of the regime's last-minute push to punish civilians before the ceasefire came into effect, with wave after wave of air raids.

The rebel groups said they want to end the suffering of the civilians, but said the ceasefire would only worsen the situation for them in the long run.

"We welcome the entry of aid to besieged areas and pledge full cooperation in protecting aid workers," the statement read.

"However, [we] refuse to link such aid with any political agreements, especially those adopting the starvation approach to force people out of their homes."

The Syrian regime has embarked on the wholescale cleansing of parts of the Damascus suburbs, with residents and fighters in Daraya forced to leave their homes for rebel-held Idlib. Encircled Moadamiyeh looks set to be next.

There were reports that Shia militia fighters - now a key part of the regime's armed forces - and their families had moved into the abandoned homes in Daraya - the site of Bashar al-Assad's Eid prayers after a tour of the ruined district.

What many in the opposition now fear is that a surprise intensive attack by the regime on Aleppo could break resistance and provide Damascus with Syria's urban rump. Such an attack would almost certainly signal a fatal setback for the rebels.

Leading Aleppo rebel alliance Ahrar al-Sham rejected the deal on Sunday for similar reasons, and other groups will likely follow.
Children on Tuesday take advantage of the ceasefire to
play in the streets of Aleppo [Zouhir al-Shimale]
Click here for our blog from the city
on the first day of the ceasefire



Meanwhile, rebels from the jihadi group Jund al-Aqsa launched an offensive on regime checkpoints in Hama. Jund al-Aqsa forms the backbone of the rebel offensive there.

The US and Russia look set to coordinate joint attacks against the former Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Fatah al-Sham, which could likely extend to other Salafi-jihadi groups in time.

Rebels in the north know that Fatah al-Sham were key to breaking the siege of eastern Aleppo last month, and if they are eliminated then the balance of the war will fall in Assad's favour.

"The agreement excludes Fatah al-Sham while ignoring the sectarian foreign militias that fight alongside the regime, which we consider dubious double standards," said Tuesday's statement.

The people of Aleppo are meanwhile waiting for the bombs to fall once again, knowing this "last chance" peace deal is likely to end in failure.

Follow Paul McLoughlin on Twitter: @PaullMcLoughlin

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