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'US has surrendered to Assad', says JFS head

Last week's truce did not include a cession of hostilities against IS and JFS [YouTube]

Date of publication: 18 September, 2016

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The leader of former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, has said the US-Russia ceasefire agreement is an attempt to force Syrian rebel groups into submission.

The leader of former al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Fateh al-Sham [JFS], previously called al-Nusra Front, has said the US-Russia Syria ceasefire agreement is an attempt to force rebel groups into submission.

Abu Mohammad al-Joulani said an interview with al-Jazeera on Saturday that the US and the international community has yielded to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Last week's truce did not include a cession of hostilities against the Islamic State group [IS] and JFS, which recently slammed the deal as a "new conspiracy against Syrians".

"The US-Russian agreement is a military deal purely aimed at forcing the armed factions fighting the regime to surrender," Joulani said in the televised interview.

"With this deal, the US has put itself in the same boat as the Russians and the regime. The US and UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura are yielding to Assad."

"The US insists on targeting JFS because it is a powerful fighting force that stands in the way of its political project. Any faction in the same position would meet the same fate."

The leader of the extremist Sunni militia accused the US of attempting to hand over power to Shias in Syria, saying: "Sunnis in Syria are currently going through a period of loss and fighting for their survival."

"The US handed over Iraq to the Shias and is now trying to that in Syria."

Joulani called on the opposition groups to unite into a single force that would represent Sunnis and defend them militarily and politically.

"The aim of a merger into a strong unified Sunni force is to avoid a division between the groups calling for the rights of Syrians and the groups fighting on the ground."

On the hold ups of humanitarian aid to besieged rebel-held East Aleppo, which were mandated in the US-Russian agreement, Joulani said: "The residents of Aleppo cannot be broken by some UN food aid. We and the other rebel groups will not allow the siege to continue."

JFS, which is deeply embedded in rebel-held areas and fights alongside more moderate groups, said it broke with al-Qaeda in July and rebranded itself.

The US and Russia have said If the truce lasts seven days and humanitarian access is granted to besieged areas they will work together to target JFS and IS.

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