The Jerusalem Post

At least 15 reported killed as Syrian government and rebels exchange fire


BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least 15 people were reported killed on Sunday in a shelling by government and insurgent forces in northweste­rn Syria, further straining a Russian-Turkish ceasefire deal for the region.

The northwest is the last major foothold of insurgents opposed to President Bashar Assad, many of whom were forced to retreat there after military defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia.

Last year, Damascus was poised to mount an offensive into the northwest, raising fears of a humanitari­an catastroph­e. The assault was postponed after Moscow struck a deal with Ankara that included the creation of a “demilitari­zed zone.”

In recent weeks, the agreement has come under strain: the Syrian Observator­y for Human Rights said 45 people had been killed in the last five days alone, most of them by government shelling in rebel-held areas.

On Sunday, government shelling killed seven people in rebel-held Nerab, the Observator­y and the pro-opposition TV station, Orient, reported. Three more people were killed in rebel-held Saraqeb, civil defense rescue workers said in a Twitter feed.

Syrian state media said five people had been killed in rebel rocket fire that hit government-held Masyaf.

The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Britain, Canada, the United States, Italy, and Japan on Saturday noted “[there is] mounting concern [over] the escalation in Syrian military activity in the de-escalation zone in Idlib over recent weeks,” according to a communique issued on Saturday after a Group of Seven meeting.

The Syrian government has vowed to take back the northweste­rn region, comprising Idlib and adjacent areas of Hama and Aleppo provinces.

Last week, Damascus said its ally Russia had started to feel that its patience was running out over the northwest. However, Moscow had told Damascus that Turkey was still determined to implement the agreement reached in September.

Turkey has deployed forces into Idlib under an agreement with Russia and Iran. Jihadist insurgents of the Tahrir al-Sham group hold sway on the ground.

The United Nations says Idlib and the adjacent areas are sheltering some 3 million people, half of whom have been uprooted from other parts of Syria by the war.

North of Aleppo, Turkish forces control a separate chunk of territory where Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army rebels are based.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Israel