The cease-fire in Syria that is just two days old may already be gradually grinding to a halt.
Russia has resumed its bombing operations and the regime has launched a new offensive against Homs. Other breaches have been reported as well.
Contrary to the general international perception, the arrangements worked out with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and “moderate” opposition leaders by the United States and Russia do not apply to the entire geographic area of the country.
Thus Russian warplanes were in the skies across Syria on Monday, particularly in northern Aleppo, an area not included in the cease-fire.
“Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) reportedly continue to advance south of Shaddadi and toward the ISIS-held town of Markadah,” reported the Levantine Group think tank. The opposition forces were reported to be “clearing ISIS villages along both of the banks of the Khabour river,” the military analysis think tank reported.
Several breaches to the current cease-fire were reported and levels of violence correspondingly have increased.
Local sources reported on Twitter that Russian planes bombed six Syrian towns around Aleppo, and areas north of Homs. Thousands of Syrian refugees were reported to be stranded at the Turkish border after fleeing the northern commercial hub.
However, other news services such as Al Arabiya continued to report the truce “seems to be largely holding, though rebels report what they describe as occasional government violations.”
Jerusalem (TPS) – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautiously welcomed on Sunday, February 28 the ceasefire that began in Syria on Saturday, February 27 between the Syrian government and a number of rebel groups.
“We welcome the efforts to achieve a stable ceasefire in Syria that is long-term and substantive,” Netanyahu said after the weekly cabinet meeting. “First and foremost, from a human vantage point, anything to stop the horrific killing there is important.”
Netanyahu, however, expressed the need to be prepared for any aggression against Israel from Iran.
“At the same time, it is important to be clear that any settlement in Syria must include an end to Iranian aggression against Israel from Syrian territory,” stressed Netanyahu.
Through Syria, Iran has supplied weaponry and support to Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization that has captured Israeli soldiers in the past and launched rocket attacks on Israeli territory. In that light, any Iranian transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah poses a national security threat to Israel. Israel also has concerns that Hezbollah is building up a base of operations in Syria.
“We will not agree to the supply of advanced weapons to Hezbollah from Syria and Lebanon,” added Netanyahu. “We will not tolerate the creation of a second terrorist front in the Golan.”
Israel’s absolute rejection of an additional terror front in Syria or Lebanon has been demonstrated by the number of alleged recent Israeli strikes on weapons transfers to Hezbollah, according to foreign reports.
“These have been the red lines and will continue to be the red lines of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Tuesday the world community may not be able to save Syria – what once was Syria, anyway – if the current fighting continues much longer.
Speaking at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department’s annual budget request, Kerry had a grim outlook for the future of Syria.
“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer,” the Secretary said, according to Reuters.
Even if the regime’s Russian-backed forces re-take the northern city of Aleppo – the largest commercial hub in the country – Kerry said it is hard to hold territory in Syria at this point.
For starters, the Secretary told the committee that he cannot guarantee that Russia will stick to the new cease-fire signed this week between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and moderate opposition forces. Moscow and Washington also signed on to that truce, which excluded the Da’esh (ISIS), Al Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terrorist groups.
The U.S. military is already looking ahead to a “Plan B,” he said, and will continue to support rebel efforts to overthrow Assad if Russia abandons its obligations under the truce.
“This can get a lot uglier,” Kerry warned. “Even if Russia took Aleppo… holding territory has always been difficult,” he said, according to Foreign Policy magazine. “Russia has to be sitting there evaluating that.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) asked Kerry what would happen if in fact “this cease-fire doesn’t hold? I don’t think Russia believes that anything is going to happen.”
Kerry ducked the question, replying instead, “I’m not going to say this process is sure to work because I don’t know. But I know that it’s the best way to end the war, and it’s the only alternative available to us if indeed we’re going to have a political settlement.”
The Arab world, on the other hand, may not be as willing to wait around and see.
Gulf nation governments and that of Saudi Arabia have already warned their citizens to leave Lebanon if they haven’t already. As early as last week, rumors were flying that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were preparing their troops for a ground invasion of Syria to deal with the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist threat on their own.
As the gunshots and sounds of mortarfire grow closer to Israeli communities in the Golan Heights, the Syrian regime has signed a truce with representatives of the rebel forces.
The truce, however, excludes Da’esh (ISIS), Al Qaeda and the Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terrorist organizations, according to a statement released Tuesday afternoon by the state-run SANA news agency, which raises the issue of how long it will actually last, and how relevant it really is.
“The Syrian Arab Republic accepts the cessation of fighting actions on the basis of continuing the military efforts for combating terrorism against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Jabhat al-Nusra and other al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organizations according to the Russian-U.S. agreement,” said an official source at the Syrian Expatriates and Foreign Ministry.
The military picture in Syria is far from simple.
Both Russia and the U.S.-led coalition are still claiming to be bombing ISIS terror targets in Syria, but one can hardly separate those out from the general population, let alone from other combatants.
The Syrian regime forces include the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist guerrilla fighters and Russian military personnel on the ground and in the air.
The U.S.-led coalition forces in the air have been bombing targets on behalf of the more moderate Syrian opposition forces. But there have been overlaps and on more than one occasion the “moderate” rebels have united with radical Islamists when they deemed necessary to overcome an enemy target. In this way, weapons, ammunition and other foreign ordnance changes hands, and Da’esh (ISIS) and/or Al Qaeda-linked terrorists end up possessing American arms and military technology.
Moreover, Ankara — also a member of NATO along with the United States — has been bombing Kurdish sites in northern Syria, claiming the PYD and YPG groups are related to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist group. Turkey alleges the PKK perpetrated last week’s horrific suicide car bombing in the capital city, Ankara, together with a PYD-linked Syrian national.
Regardless of who is dropping the bombs, after five years of one of the most savage civil wars in the Middle East very little is left of the “Syrian Arab Republic” that the world — or President Bashar al-Assad himself — once knew. At present, even the outlying districts of Damascus have been bombed into rubble in many areas, as seen in the video below, filmed by RussiaWorks.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry source noted that the cease-fire is set to begin on Saturday Feb. 27. In order to ensure the success of the cease-fire, “the Syrian government affirms readiness to continue to coordinate with the Russian side for identifying the areas and the armed groups that are to be included in the cessation along the period it is in effect,” the source said.
“The Syrian government stresses the importance of border curbing, halting support provided by some countries to the armed groups, and preventing these organizations from boosting their capabilities or changing their positions so as to avoid anything that may undermine this agreement,” the source warned.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed that he and U.S. President Barack Obama had agreed on a joint statement announcing their plans to stop military operations in Syria. The U.S. State Department announced the agreement, which it said includes “plans to stop the military operations in Syria, [but] which exclude the Islamic State (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations.”
Innovative new barriers under construction along Israel’s northern border seem to be frustrating Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist organization.
An article published by the Hezbollah-backed Al Manar TV news outlet commented this weekend (Feb. 20) that the “artificial barriers” were being built “in order to prevent Hezbollah fighters from invading Galilee.”
According to the report, the IDF has been building “cliffs and scarps that turns the military movement in the area very difficult.”
The news outlet claims the IDF is creating the barriers as an acknowledgment of its “incapability to face the Islamic Resistance fighters directly. An Israeli officer considered that Hezbollah has not abandoned the southern front despite [his] intervention in Syria.”
The article went on to predict a “victory” by the Syrian army and Hezbollah as the “probably outcome of the crisis.”
More than 4.5 million refugees have fled Syria and are to be found in five host countries: Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt.
Kerry also discussed the Syria crisis with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Saturday morning in London, prior to his trip to Jordan.
State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a briefing the two men discussed efforts to broker a partial cease-fire in Syria, and ways to get humanitarian aid to civilians trapped and starving in villages and towns that are still under siege.