Fighting surges in Aleppo as partial truce begins in Syria

Partial ceasefire dubbed 'regime of calm' comes into effect in most parts of Syria, but regime excludes Aleppo where 200 civilians died in air strikes last week

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Smoke rises after air strikes on the opposition-held al-Sakhour neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria April 29, 2016.

Local truces near Damascus and in a northern province went into effect in Syria on Friday but fighting continued on the main battlefield in Aleppo. The development follows a surge in violence the United Nations said showed "monstrous disregard" for civilian lives. 

The Syrian regime described the truce as an attempt to salvage a wider "cessation of hostilities" agreement in place since February. However, exclusion of Aleppo where air strikes and shellings killed 200 civilians last week has raised fears of a long and bitter new bout of hostilities there.

The partial truce, which began from 1:00 am on Saturday, will last for 24 hours in Damascus and the Eastern Ghouta suburb outside the capital.

In the northern countryside of the coastal province of Latakia, the truce will last 72 hours.

Late on Wednesday, an air strike destroyed al-Quds hospital, which was supported by the French charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), killing at least 60 people including six medics in the opposition-held Sukkari neighbourhood in Aleppo.

United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said on Friday that "Violence is soaring back to the levels we saw prior to the cessation of hostilities [the deal agreed between the United States and Russia in February]."

Arabic script on a wall reading "Aleppo is burning," in an opposition-held area of Aleppo, Syria, April 29, 2016.(Reuters)

The United Nations has called on Moscow and Washington to help restore the ceasefire to prevent the collapse of peace talks, which broke up this week in Geneva with virtually no progress after the opposition walked out due to regime’s continued military attacks in opposition held areas.

The United States said on Friday that it was in discussions with Russia to renew the cessation of hostilities and was seeking a halt to fighting in Latakia and eastern Ghouta as a test case before trying to extend ceasefires throughout the country.

"We are in touch with the opposition and it is our expectation they will comply," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said of the Latakia and Ghouta ceasefires.

Asked why the United States did not try to get a halt to the violence in Aleppo, Toner said, "In part it is a recognition that Aleppo is very complex and the fighting around there is indeed alarming. We need to start somewhere and we're going to start with Latakia and east Ghouta."

Aleppo was Syria’s biggest city and commercial hub before 2011, when the conflict in which 400,000 people have been killed first erupted.

TRTWorld and agencies