PHOTO: Regime airstrike on Wadi Barada, northwest of Damascus, at the end of December
Leading Syrian rebel factions have said that the December 29 ceasefire has “practically ended on the ground” because of pro-Assad offensives that have continued despite the supposed truce.
On Tuesday, a commander of the Fastiqim Union, prominent in Aleppo Province, is now preparing to respond to violations.
Leaders of three other factions — Shuhada Al-Islam, Jaysh Al-Mujahideen, and Suqour Al-Sham — said on Sunday that the ceasefire has failed because of the pro-Assad assaults on Wadi Barada, northwest of Damascus, and East Ghouta to the northeast of the capital. They also said warned that a rebel response is forthcoming.
The Fastiqim commander, Abu Qutaiba, said rebels have not decided yet whether to participate in political talks with the regime in Kazakhstan because of the conditions on the ground.
Russia and Turkey, the brokers of the ceasefire, declared that the truce would be followed by the discussions to begin establishment of a political resolution. However, on Monday President Assad challenged the talks by questioning if there was a genuine Syrian opposition and saying that he will step down, even at the end of a transitional process.
The opposition and rebels have said that they will not withdraw their demand of Assad’s departure.
Attacks by regime and Hezbollah forces continued on the Wadi Barada area on Tuesday, including bombing by Syrian warplanes, according to opposition outlets.
Local opposition sources said the airstrikes, mortars, and tank fire were “the single most violent” day since the start of the offensive on 22 December against the area of 10 villages and between 50,000 and 100,000 people.
The offensive was not halted by the December 29 ceasefire. President Assad had said that the attacks will continue until “terrorists” are removed.
Wadi Barada is vital because it contains the al-Fija springs, which provide more than 60% of Damascus’s water. Regime airstrikes in late December damaged the pumping facilities, limiting water to more than five million people to about two hours per day.
Pro-Assad forces have also been trying to seize territory in East Ghouta, northeast of Damascus. On Tuesday, a pro-Assad site proclaimed that an offensive, led by Hezbollah, will soon be launched in southern Aleppo Province.
Officials: US Begins Support of Turkish-Rebel Offensive v. ISIS
Officials say US aircraft have begun regular surveillance in support of the Turkish-rebel offensive against the Islamic State in northern Syria.
The flights follow weeks of military and diplomatic talks between American and Turkish counterparts.
Since autumn 2015, the US had switched most of its military support from rebels to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who have advanced against the Islamic State in northeastern Syria.
However, in August 2016, Turkey intervened alongside rebels with airstrikes, tanks, and troops to push the Islamic State back in northern Syria, clearing a corridor along the Turkish-Syrian border and advancing south in Aleppo Province.
Over the past six weeks, the Turkish-rebel offensive has struggled to advance against the Islamic State’s last major position in Aleppo Province, the town of al-Bab.
White Helmets Criticize Detention, Forced “Confession” of Rescuer
The White Helmets civil defense organization have criticized the regime’s detention of a rescuer, forcing his “confession” which was then shown by a Russian media agency.
Abdulhadi Kamel, a volunteer since May 2013, was in a convoy removing civilians from eastern Aleppo city to western Aleppo Province. The buses were stopped and attacked, killed four people and injuring 10.
Shot in the shoulder, Kamel disappeared, reportedly under interrogation by the Air Force Intelligence branch in Aleppo. He finally was shown on January 7 in ANNA News’s “The White Helmets: The Mask of Terror”, with disinformation to tarnish the organization.
The White Helmets summarize:
We have no doubt that he has been forced to make a false confession for propaganda reasons. One glance at his face is enough to realise that this man is not speaking his mind, he is speaking out of fear for his life. The Assad regime has a long history of broadcasting false confessions from those they consider “terrorists”.