Aleppo bloodshed continues after Russia announces truce on two fronts


Sources in Damascus say there will be no truce in Aleppo, where strikes hit a clinic and a water purification plant on Friday

Men carry a wounded Aleppo resident after a reported air strike on a rebel-held district of the city on Friday (AFP)
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Last update: 
Friday 29 April 2016 15:49 UTC

Air strikes continued to pound Syria's northern city of Aleppo on Friday as the US and Russia reportedly agreed a “regime of silence” to come into effect in parts of Syria at midnight on Friday.

News of the partial truce comes after a fragile ceasefire in place since February effectively broke down earlier this week. 

Syrian government sources on Friday morning confirmed the deal originally announced by the Russians, saying it would come into force at 1am on Saturday morning local time.

The government source said the deal would affect Eastern Ghouta, Damascus and the coastal city of Latakia.

The temporary freeze in fighting will not extend to war-ravaged Aleppo, an official source in Damascus told AFP on Friday afternoon.

"The Americans asked for Aleppo to be included, but the Russians refused," the source said.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, US envoy to Syria Michael Ratney urged all parties on the ground to back the deal, which he said was a "recommitment" to the original cessation of hostilities, "not a new set of local ceasefires".

Ratney said that "persistent violations and attacks on civilians in Aleppo have stressed" the nationwide ceasefire deal from February, saying that Washington is in urgent talks with Russia to reduce violence in the northern city as well as in Damascus and Latakia.

Fighting that has killed over 200 civilians so far this week in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, continued into Friday, with local civil defence teams saying another 11 people died following a series of twenty air strikes on rebel-held districts.

A water purification plant and a community health dispensary in the east of the city were reportedly among the targets hit in Friday morning's fighting, Al Jazeera reported.

Local activists told Syrian site Orient News that government forces had deployed naval mines in the southern rebel-held district of al-Fardous.

In government-held areas of the city, Syria's state news agency reported that 16 people were killed by rebel shelling, while the Russian foreign ministry said its consulate had come under sustained mortar fire.

It is not known which groups will be included in the ceasefire deal in Damascus and Latakia - the previous deal excluded Islamic State and the Nusra Front, both of which are considered "terrorist" by the UN Security Council.

The "regime of silence" will last for 24 hours in Damascus and 72 hours in Latakia, diplomatic sources told the Russian RIA news agency.

The new deal comes after UN envoy Staffan de Mistura warned on Thursday that a previous ceasefire that came into force in February was “barely alive” amid an escalation of violence in the northern city of Aleppo.

During the past week, air strikes on rebel-held areas of the divided city have killed over 123 civilians, while at least 71 civilians were killed by rebel shelling on government-held districts, according to the British-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Government officials told AFP this week that they had been planning a "huge" offensive on Aleppo in the coming days, hoping to encircle the city and repel the "terrorists" in control of large areas of it.

The “regime of silence” deal announced on Friday morning will be overseen by Russia and the US, which are backing opposite sides in the entrenched war.

News of the fresh ceasefire deal comes after the US on Thursday called on Russia, a key supporter of Syria's President Assad, to rein in its ally after a deadly strike hit a hospital in Aleppo.

The UN on Thursday slammed the attack - blamed on government forces - as "inexcusable” after the strike that MSF now says killed 50 people including the most qualified paediatrician in the city.

“There must be accountability for these crimes,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

Washington on Thursday condemned what it said was a “deliberate strike on a known medical facility".

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that, according to its data, the Aleppo hospital strike was carried out by "an aircraft of a so-called anti-ISIS coalition member state".

Russia Today, a Russian state media outlet, published footage of the strike claiming it had been carried out by al-Nusra Front, which the Syrian government says is massing thousands of fighters in Aleppo.

The agency published footage of buildings on fire and residents searching through the rubble for wounded people under the headline "Deaths after al-Nusra Front shells civilian areas of Aleppo".

However, the filmmaker, Aleppo resident Hani al-Abdallah, on Thursday accused the agency of "falsifying the facts" with its use of the footage, which he said showed the aftermath of an attack by planes supporting the government of President Assad.

Rebel in-fighting in the Eastern Ghouta region of Damascus, which will also be subject to the ceasefire, killed least 12 people on Thursday, according to local media activists.

On Thursday morning, fighters from Failaq a-Rahman and Jaish al-Fustat attacked Jaish al-Islam headquarters and the homes of military leaders and Islamic judges in six towns in the region.

Orient News reported that seven Jaish al-Islam members and five civilians had so far been killed in the fighting.