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Syria opposition says US has 'handed control' of crisis to Russia

Allegation comes as Washington is accused of leaving US-backed rebels stranded without air cover during key anti-IS assault
A Syrian boy looks out during Eid celebrations in a rebel-held eastern outskirt of the capital Damascus (AFP)

Washington has “handed over control” of the Syrian crisis to Russia, the head of the Syrian opposition’s political bloc alleged on Thursday.

In a strongly-worded statement issued on Thursday, the head of the opposition’s negotiating team slammed Washington for taking a back seat on Syria, accusing US officials of “handing over control” of the crisis to Russia, a key backer of President Bashar al-Assad.

Asaad al-Zubi said that a ceasefire agreed between the US and Russia in February had effectively completely broken down on the ground, leading to severe losses for the opposition.

Zubi said the latest ceasefire, a 72-hour truce announced unilaterally by President Assad on Wednesday to mark the festival of Eid, was proof that Washington had handed over responsibility for the crisis to Assad and his allies.

The accusations come as Washington comes under fire for allegedly leaving a group of US-backed fighters stranded without air cover during an assault on an IS position in eastern Syria.

US fighter planes were originally providing air support to an operation last week by the US-backed New Syrian Army to retake al-Bukamal, a small town in Deir Ezzor governorate and close to the border with Iraq.

However, at a critical moment during the assault, the US jets were diverted to bomb sites on the outskirts of Iraq’s Fallujah that were considered to be more strategically important, US officials told the Washington Post on Wednesday.

The operation ended with New Syrian Army fighters losing the territory they had captured around al-Bukamal, eventually being pushed all the way back to their base in al-Tanf over 300 kilometres away.

A New Syrian Army fighter, named as Khalid al-Hamad, also told opposition news site al-Dorar that the group had not been supplied with sufficient weapons for the fight.

US-backed rebels in Syria suffered a further blow last week when al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country, kidnapped the commander of a separate group in north-western Syria along with 40 of his fighters.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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