Syria 'safe zones' come into effect but fighting continues

Syria 'safe zones' come into effect but fighting continues
Gunfire and shelling was reported in parts of Syria said to be includes in Russian-sponsored safe zones which came into effect at midnight Friday with fears that violence could escalate.
2 min read
06 May, 2017
Parts of Syria witnessed bombing and fighting [AFP]
Fighting has continued in parts of Syria covered by a controversial Russian-sponsored ceasefire plan, which came into effect at midnight on Friday.

Shelling and gunfire was heard in rebel-held areas of Hama province, with one opposition website reporting an air strike in the area.

Regime forces shelled the areas of Kafr Zita and Latamneh in Hama, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, with rebels returning fire. 

Mohammed Rasheed, spokesperson for Jaish al-Nasr, confirmed to Zamn al-Wasl that fighting had taken place in Hama where the rebel group operates. 

The Russian-brokered ceasefire was unveiled at peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana on Thursday, which outlines plans for "de-escalation zones" in parts of Syria outside Islamic State group control.

Zone one covers north-west Syria including rebel-held Idlib province, zone two central Syria including parts of Homs, zone three parts of the Damascus' suburbs, and zone four southern Syria.

Under the plan - the details of which still haven't been made public - Russian combat planes would still be able to strike Islamic State group areas, mostly in eastern Syria.

The Syrian regime's air force would essentially be grounded as most of its bombing has been concentrated on rebel-held areas.

Controversially, Russia said US-led coalition aircraft would be banned from these zones, which Washington reportedly brushed off late Friday.

Syrian rebels are also unhappy with the agreement due to Iran acting as a guarantor, the country being one of Bashar al-Assad's chief allies in the war.

Tehran has poured thousands of fighters and troops into Syria to support Damascus, with the regime now relying on Iranian-backed militias - including Hizballah - in its fight against rebels.

Russia, Iran and Turkey signed the agreement on Thursday, with the UN, US and Saudi Arabia all backing the plan.

Neither the Syrian regime or opposition parties signed the agreement with some rebel leaders walking out of the Astana meeting in protest. 

The war in Syria erupted in 2011 when regime forces brutally out down anti-government protests with around half a million people left dead, the vast majority civilians from regime bombing.