Vi­o­lence dis­rupts new calm in Syria

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY BASSEM MROUE

beirut — Vi­o­lence left at least four op­po­si­tion fight­ers dead and a child wounded in cen­tral and south­ern Syria on Satur­day, but rel­a­tive calm was re­ported across the war-rav­aged coun­try after a deal to set up “de-es­ca­la­tion zones” in mostly op­po­si­tion-held ar­eas went into ef­fect at mid­night Fri­day.

The agree­ment, ham­mered out by Rus­sia, Turkey and Iran, is the lat­est at­tempt to bring calm to a coun­try that has gone through six years of vi­o­lent con­flict, leav­ing more than 400,000 dead. It is the first to en­vis­age armed for­eign mon­i­tors on the ground in Syria. The United States is not party to the agree­ment.

It is not clear how the cease-fire or “de-es­ca­la­tion zones” will be en­forced in ar­eas still to be de­ter­mined in maps to emerge a month from now. Rus­sian of­fi­cials said it will be at least an­other month un­til the de­tails are worked out and the safe ar­eas estab­lished.

The armed op­po­si­tion del­e­ga­tion to the talks in the Kazakh cap­i­tal of As­tana said in a state­ment Satur­day that the truce should in­clude all Syria and not just spe­cific ar­eas. Still, op­po­si­tion ac­tivists in south­ern, cen­tral and north­ern Syria told the As­so­ci­ated Press on Satur­day that the situation was more calm Satur­day than pre­vi­ous days, with lit­tle shelling and airstrikes re­ported.

The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights, which has ac­tivists on the ground across the coun­try, said the govern­ment’s he­li­copter gun­ships dropped at least 10 bar­rel bombs on the rebel-held Latam­neh area and its sur­round­ings in cen­tral Syria where fight­ing was re­ported be­tween rebels and troops. Govern­ment forces shelled rebel-held neigh­bor­hoods of the cap­i­tal Da­m­as­cus. “De­spite some vi­o­la­tions, the situation is much calmer than be­fore,” said op­po­si­tion ac­tivist Mo­hammed al-Homsi, speak­ing via Skype from north­ern Syria.

Ah­mad al-Masalmeh, who is based in the south­ern prov­ince of Daraa bor­der­ing Jor­dan, said there were six breaches in the prov­ince when govern­ment forces shelled op­po­si­tion-held ar­eas.

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