A ceasefire in southwest Syria, declared by the US and Russia in their first “de-escalation” deal in the conflict, began on Sunday; however, numerous violations by pro-Assad forces are being reported.
The arrangement, which also includes Jordan, was announced as Donald Trump met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Germany on Friday.
However, the Russians did not appear to have consulted the Assad regime over a halt to attacks, nor the US did not speak to rebel factions about the announcement.
The Southern Front rebel bloc, while sceptical of the deal and assuring that they were not part of it, initially said that the ceasefire was holding into Sunday evening.
“The situation is relatively calm,” said Suhaib al-Ruhail, a spokesman for the Alwiyat al-Furqan faction in Quneitra Province, covered by the truce that began at noon local time.
A rebel official in Daraa city, on the Jordanian border, said there had been no significant clashes. The halt in violence included the strategic area of Manshiya, most of which was taken and held by rebels this spring despite almost 2,000 bombs, missiles, and “elephant” rockets fired by pro-Assad forces.
Growing Reports of Pro-Assad Violations
However, activists and pro-opposition media were soon reporting a series of violations by pro-Assad forces, with shelling and fire from heavy machine guns on towns and villages in both Quneitra and Daraa Provinces.
Violations Documetation Office In South- West Syria
Sunday. 9 July 2017 pic.twitter.com/tjPShTpJOI
— Abd Alrahman Hariri (@abdalrahmanhar) July 9, 2017
This morning an outlet supporting the Free Syrian Army says pro-Assad units launched a “violent attack with airstrikes and foreign militia ground forces” in eastern Suweida Province.
— FSA News (@FSAPlatform) July 10, 2017
— Qasioun News Agency (@QASIOUN_NEWS) July 10, 2017
A pro-regime account tried to cover the violations in eastern Suweida with the claim that 12 positions had been taken from the “Islamic State”.
Israel, which carried out three strikes on regime positions near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past month, welcomed the news. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed “a genuine cease-fire” provided it does not enable a military presence for Iranian-backed forces along Israel’s border.