Violence disrupts new calm in Syria
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.