Tensions in Syria intensify after failed ceasefire deal

  • Posted on: 2 December 2018

On September 17, 2018, Russian and Turkish presidents agreed to create a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib along the line of contact between the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition. The agreement fell apart following a chemical attack targeting Aleppo and reigniting clashes between Turkish-backed rebel forces in Idlib and the Syrian Army supported by Russian forces. 

Idlib Chemical attack. (Nov. 24, 2018)

The State news agency Sana said on Sunday, Nov. 25th, 2018 that 107 people were injured, including children, after militants hit three districts with projectiles containing gases that caused choking. It marks the highest such casualty toll in Aleppo since the Syrian Army and their allies recaptured the city from rebels nearly two years ago.

 Russia’s Defence Ministry accused insurgents of firing shells filled with chlorine gas at Aleppo from the rebel stronghold of Idlib. Moscow, a key ally of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, said it would talk to Turkey, which backs some rebel factions and helped broker a ceasefire in the Idlib region. However, Rebel spokesman Mustafa Sejari dismisses the poison-gas claims. He says they came after government shells landed in rebel-held areas, violating a Russian-backed cease-fire. He says the government is trying to undermine the cease-fire.

In Syria, where militants continue armed attacks on government forces, a November 24 attack on residents of the western part of Aleppo using chemical poisonous substances, presumably chlorine, was a blatant violation of the ceasefire," Putin said, speaking at a BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

Following a request by the Syrian government, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will investigate an alleged gas attack, the head of the agency said. The OPCW had asked the United Nations Department of Security to say whether it was safe to deploy a team to Aleppo, where government forces two years ago ousted rebels from the last pocket of territory that they controlled. Under new powers granted in June, the OPCW will be able not only to determine whether a chemical weapons attack occurred but also to assign blame.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the shelling in Aleppo wounded 94 people, while government shelling earlier had killed nine people in Idlib. The dominant force among an array of factions holding sway in Idlib is Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist alliance led by fighters formerly linked to al-Qaeda.

Israel bombs Damascus (Nov. 29, 2018)

Israel bombed several positions in Damascus Syria in the first strikes since the downing of a Russian plane in September. According to the Syria Observatory for Human Rights, the strikes hit two positions in the south of Damascus province, including an area believed to be an Iranian weapons depot near the capital. Another missile hit the area of Harfa, where there is a Syrian military base, the Britain-based monitor said.

The state news agency said the attack was foiled and did not admit to any losses. "Our air defenses fired on hostile targets over the Kisweh area and downed them," SANA said, citing a military source. However, the ISF Spokesperson's Unit denied the Syrian reports and confirmed that no Israeli plane was shot down. However, they stated that a surface-to-air missile was fired at an open area in the Golan Heights and ISF forces are searching the area for additional hits.

This is not the first time an attack on al-Kiswah has been reported. Last May, an attack on Iranian military facilities south of Damascus, attributed to Israel, had killed at least 15 people, including eight Iranians. The target at the time was medium-range rockets with relatively heavy warheads. Six months prior, an Iranian base was bombed in the same area, three weeks after the BBC published satellite images of the site.


Clashes break out in Idlib (Dec. 2, 2018)

For the past couple of days, intense clashes broke out between the Syrian Army and rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the southern countryside of Idlib. Using rockets and artillery, the rebels repeatedly struck the Syrian government troops that were positioned along the Idlib-Hama axis.

The Syrian Army would then spread their assault to the northern countryside of Hama, where their troops fired several artillery shells towards the Jaysh Al-Izza stronghold of Al-Latamnah.

Despite the Sochi agreement’s attempt to halt the hostilities, clashes between the Syrian Arab Army and rebel forces have become a daily occurrence in northwest Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have agreed to hold another meeting on the situation in Idlib in the near future.