Air Strikes In Syria After U.S.-Russia Peace Deal Raise Rebels Doubts

Air Strike In Russia

Air strikes in Syria hours after the United States and Russia reached a breakthrough deal to try to restore peace in the nation ravaged by war are adding to rebels’ doubts that a ceasefire could hold.

The agreement, by the powers that back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, promises a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday, improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hard-line Islamist groups.

But hours after it was agreed, warplanes bombed a marketplace in rebel-held Idlib in north-western Syria, killing at least 40 civilians, according to rescue workers and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Locals said they believed the jets to be Russian.

Idlib province has endured escalating strikes by Russian planes in recent months, according to international aid workers and residents, destroying scores of hospitals, bakeries and other infrastructure across rebel-held territory.

Reuters reports that Aleppo was also hit from the air and fighting continued on the ground on Saturday. The army attacked rebel-held areas, both sides said, pushing to maximise gains before the ceasefire deadline.

Ten people were killed by barrel bombs dropped by army helicopters on the besieged rebel-held east of the city, and jets, either Syrian or Russian, bombed rebel-held towns along important insurgent supply routes.

Insurgents said they were planning a counter-offensive.

“The fighting is flaring on all the fronts of southern Aleppo,” rebel spokesman Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak said.

Razak, of the Nour al-Din al Zinki Brigades, part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which is backed by the West, said they were studying the peace deal but feared it merely gave the Syrian army a chance to gather forces and pour more Iranian-backed militias into Aleppo.

President Bashar al Assad’s government made no comment on the peace deal, but Syrian state media quoted what it called private sources as saying the government had given its approval.

Syria’s mainstream political opposition, the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said it had not received a copy of the deal and would only react after consulting members.

A spokeswoman had earlier welcomed any deal that spared civilian lives but cast doubt on whether Moscow would be able to pressure Damascus to stop indiscriminate bombing.

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