Air raids on rebel-held Douma threaten Syria ceasefire

Air raids on rebel-held Douma threaten Syria ceasefire
War planes have bombed a rural district of the Syrian capital held by the opposition for the first time since a ceasefire in the country was announced on Saturday.
2 min read
04 March, 2016
Douma residents had been enjoying a rare break from daily barrel bombing [AFP]

Bombs struck a key rebel bastion east of the Syrian capital Damascus on Friday threatening a fragile ceasefire agreement between regime and opposition forces.

At least two air raids were launched on the besiseged district of Douma on Friday, in the first aerial bombardment there since a fragile truce began, a monitor said.

The areas are outside Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front control, and so subject to a ceasefire.

"Two air strikes hit the edge of the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta and one person was killed," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

He said the strikes were conducted by either Syrian or Russian planes, and could not identify whether the individual killed was a civilian or a fighter.

Douma and the eastern Ghouta regions have been some of the most heavily bombed parts of Syria and left devastated by regime sieges and barrel bombs.

The observatory also reported that a regime bombardment of a village in rebel-held Idlib has killed four people, including two women and one child.

The death toll is expected to rise, and again the area is thought to be included in the truce.

Despite the ceasefire largely holding, shelling and bombing of rebel areas by regime and Kurdish forces have continued, although on a much smaller scale than usual.

The Syrian Observatory reported yesterday that 118 people have been killed in military operations in truce areas, including 24 civilians over the past week.

Such attacks have not led to reprisals by rebel forces, but threaten the stability of the truce agreement.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has hailed "real progress" in Syria but said peace talks cannot resume unless the ceasefire is fully respected and until all Syrians have access to aid.

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"We want a speedy resumption of the negotiations in Geneva, but two conditions must be fulfilled: access for all Syrians to humanitarian aid, and full respect of the ceasefire," Ayrault said after meeting in Paris with his British, German and EU counterparts.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond gave a similarly upbeat conclusion about the past week's ceasefire agreement.

"This cessation of hostilities is by no means perfect but it has reduced the level of violence, it has created an opportunity for some humanitarian access," he said.