Rus­sians mon­i­tor Syria cease-fire

Mil­i­tary po­lice de­ploy to check­points in third safe zone

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - BASSEM MROUE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Vladimir Isachenkov, Al­bert Aji and staff mem­bers of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

BEIRUT — Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice de­ployed north of the cen­tral city of Homs on Fri­day, set­ting up check­points and ob­ser­va­tion points as part of a cease-fire in a third safe zone in war-torn Syria, but op­po­si­tion ac­tivists said gov­ern­ment forces had vi­o­lated the truce.

The truce that be­gan Thurs­day and the de­ploy­ment are part of the third of four planned cease-fires de­cided un­der an agree­ment bro­kered by Rus­sia, Iran and Turkey in May that aims to de-es­ca­late the Syr­ian civil war, now in its sixth year.

Rus­sia and Iran are pro­vid­ing mil­i­tary sup­port to Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad, while Turkey spon­sors some of the op­po­si­tion forces ar­rayed against him.

The de­ploy­ment came hours af­ter gov­ern­ment forces shelled the cen­tral town of Tal­biseh on Thurs­day just be­fore mid­night, killing one per­son and wound­ing sev­eral oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights and ac­tivist Mo­hammed al-Homsi, who is based in Homs prov­ince.

Al-Homsi said the shelling also tar­geted the nearby vil­lages of Teir Maaleh and Ghar­nata. The Ob­ser­va­tory and al-Homsi said the sit­u­a­tion was calm Fri­day as Rus­sian troops be­gan de­ploy­ing in the re­gion.

The Ob­ser­va­tory said dozens of Rus­sian troops de­ployed on front lines be­tween gov­ern­ment forces and op­po­si­tion fight­ers.

Rus­sian De­fense Min­istry spokesman Igor Konashenkov an­nounced the mil­i­tary po­lice de­ploy­ment on Thurs­day, say­ing the Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice will es­tab­lish two check­points in the Harb Naf­seh and Dayr dis­tricts and three ob­ser­va­tion posts in the dis­tricts of Kh­meirat, Qubeibat and Tel Ameri.

Rus­sian mil­i­tary po­lice from the de-es­ca­la­tion mon­i­tor­ing forces will have to “en­sure the dis­en­gage­ment of the op­pos­ing sides, mon­i­tor com­pli­ance with the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties and also en­sure un­hin­dered de­liv­er­ies of hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­plies and evac­u­a­tions of those ill and in­jured,” Konashenkov said.

Ear­lier Fri­day, an ex­plo­sion tar­geted an of­fice of the al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate in north­ern Syria, in­flict­ing ca­su­al­ties.

The Ob­ser­va­tory said the ex­plo­sion oc­curred near the of­fice be­long­ing to the al-Qaida-linked Le­vant Lib­er­a­tion Com­mit­tee, adding that two of the mil­i­tant group’s fight­ers were killed and sev­eral oth­ers were wounded.

The Ibaa news agency, which is linked to al-Qaida, said the blast in the vil­lage of Urum al-Kubra, west of the north­ern city of Aleppo, left “sev­eral mar­tyrs” and wounded peo­ple.

The ex­plo­sion comes amid ris­ing ten­sion in north­ern Syria be­tween the al-Qaidalinked group and other fac­tions, in­clud­ing more mod­er­ate rebels.

Across the west­ern bor­der, the leader of Le­banon’s Hezbol­lah group, Has­san Nas­ral­lah, said Fri­day that his group will help fight the Is­lamic State in the bor­der area.

Nas­ral­lah’s an­nounce­ment came days af­ter a joint Syr­ian-Hezbol­lah of­fen­sive cul­mi­nated in a deal to re­lease Le­banese pris­on­ers and repa­tri­ate thou­sands of Syr­i­ans, in­clud­ing hun­dreds of al-Qaida af­fil­i­ated fight­ers, back to Syria.

Nas­ral­lah said the Le­banese army in­side Le­banon will take on the bat­tle against the Is­lamic State in the ar­eas be­tween the coun­try and Syria. Hezbol­lah, mean­while, will fight in Syria with the Syr­ian army, he said.

Nas­ral­lah praised Iran’s sup­port for Hezbol­lah in the fight against the mil­i­tants.

Rus­sia and Iran are pro­vid­ing mil­i­tary sup­port to Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad, while Turkey spon­sors some of the op­po­si­tion forces ar­rayed against him.

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