Syria Daily: Pro-Assad Attacks Ease — But Continue — as Russia’s De-Escalation Zones Take Effect


Despite Russian proclamation of de-escalation zones, pro-Assad bombing and bombardment in parts of northern Hama Province and on Damascus suburb of Qaboun


UPDATE 1615 GMT: Pro-Assad forces have finally captured the Zilaqiat checkpoint in northern Hama Province.

However, one of the regime’s brigadier generals, Yahya Balush, was killed during the attacks.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Pro-Assad bombing and ground attacks eased in some areas of Syria, but continued in others, as a Russian-led initiative for four “de-escalation zones” took effect on Saturday.

The Russian-Turkish-Iranian initiative, agreed on Thursday, formally began at midnight. It covers much of northwest Syria, including all of Idlib Province, parts of neighboring Hama, Aleppo, and Latakia Provinces; northern Homs Province; areas near Damascus; and parts of southern Syria.

There was a reduction in Russian and regime airstrikes across most of the territory. However, pro-Assad assaults continued in northern Hama Province and on Qaboun, northeast of Damascus.

A rebel commander in northern Hama told Reuters, “The bombardment has not stopped, it is no different from before,” he told Reuters.

Pro-Assad warplanes bombed on and near the village Zilakiat in northern Hama, under attack for several days, and also Latamneh.

Bombardment of Zilakiat on Sunday morning:

Attacks on Latamneh:

Videos showed smoke rising from strikes on Qaboun, which the regime and its allies have tried to overrun since early this year.

A report from Qaboun from the pro-opposition Orient News:

Russia Publishes Text of Agreement

The Russian Foreign Ministry published the text of the deal on Saturday, confirming that it lasts for six months and can be extended if Russia, Turkey, and Iran agree.

Iran and Turkey agreed to the Russian proposal for de-escalation zones on Thursday. The text of the memorandum was published by the Russian foreign ministry on Saturday.

The agreement says it will create conditions for humanitarian access, medical assistance, and the return of displaced civilians to their homes, although there is little deal on how sieges of opposition towns and villages will be lifted.

The Ministry said Russian and US military heads discussed the de-escalation zones and agreed to resume the implementation of arrangements for “de-confliction” in their aerial operations.

Russia had announced an end to the de-confliction cooperation after the US fired missiles on April 7 on an Assad regime airbase, from where the deadly nerve-agent attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria was launched three days earlier.

TOP PHOTO: Smoke rises from pro-Assad bombing of Qaboun, northeast of Damascus, on April 17, 2017 — attacks were reported on the town on Saturday despite Russia’s declaration of de-escalation zones

Syrian National Coalition Elects Veteran Dissident Seif as President

The opposition Syrian National Coalition has elected Riad Seif as President.

Seif, 71, is a veteran dissident, former member of the People’s Assembly, and former political prisoner. He was a leading figure in the 2000 Damascus Declaration, signed by almost 100 intellectuals, calling for reforms by the new leader Bashar al-Assad, but was soon imprisoned in the crackdown on the signatories. He was held for five years and detained again from 2008 to 2010.

In 2012, he proposed a leadership body to unite the opposition factions in Syria and abroad, the Syrian National Initiative, but said he could not play a major role because of poor health after prostate cancer.

Russian State Outlet Withdraws Disinformation Over Chemical Attack

Russian State outlet Sputnik has withdrawn disinformation trying to divert attention from the Assad regime’s nerve-agent attack on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria on April 4.

Sputnik ran an article on May 4, taken from the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, claiming that stringers for Al Jazeera filmed fictional chemical attacks by regime forces against civilians in other areas of Idlib Province, including Saraqeb and Jisr al-Shughour. A “military and diplomatic source” said the filming was ordered by a “European country”.

Al Jazeera fought back, threatening legal action against Sputnik if the story was not withdrawn.

Sputnik then wrote, “After a rigorous check, this information was not confirmed by other sources. The agency cannot consider this information credible and tenders apologies to its readers and subscribers.”

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