Sunday, January 19, 2020


DAMASCUS, Breaches to the deal of imposing a demilitarized zone in northern Syria were reported on Thursday by both state news agency SANA and opposition activists.

The rebels fired explosive bullets on the Jamiyet al-Zahraa neighborhood in Aleppo city in northern Syria on Thursday, causing material losses, said SANA.

The bullets exploded on the outskirts of Jamiyet al-Zahraa near the courthouse, it added.

The attack came a day after 10 civilians were wounded in a similar rebel mortar fire in Aleppo city.

The state news agency accused the rebels, who are located in the western and southwestern province of Aleppo, of firing the explosive rounds.

It noted that such attacks have been repeated in the last few days, which led to the killing of a number of civilians and the wounding of others, mainly women and children.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor also reported the rebels who are located in the demilitarized zone in the western countryside of Aleppo were the ones that fired mortar shells on Aleppo city.

The UK-based watchdog group said both the government forces and the rebels have been exchanging fire until after midnight Thursday in the demilitarized zone that supposedly entered into force on Oct. 15 amid lack of full implementation of the terms of the Russian-Turkish deal.

The planned demilitarized zone stretches from the northeastern countryside of Latakia province to the northern countryside of the province of Hama and western countryside of Latakia as well as areas in the countryside of Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

The tension was mostly reported in Aleppo, where the Observatory said the shelling by both sides was the most intense since Russia and Turkey reached the agreement to impose a demilitarized zone on Sept. 17.

It said four civilians had been killed since the agreement of imposing the buffer zone went into force on Oct. 15, three of whom were killed by the rebels' mortar fire in Aleppo.

The shelling was also reported in other areas in the demilitarized zone such as the countryside of Idlib and the northern and southern countryside of Hama, without reports on human casualties.

The Russian-Turkish deal to impose a buffer zone between the Syrian army and the rebel groups in northern Syria has been partially implemented in terms of pulling out heavy weapons from the zone.

However, the second stage of the deal is for the ultra-radical rebel groups to withdraw, which did not happen as such groups, mainly al-Qaida-linked groups, have rejected to pull out.

The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, also known as al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, is considered as the most powerful among the rebel groups in Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

This group has said it will not abide by the Turkish-Russian deal.

Turkey's task in the deal is to persuade the rebel groups in Idlib to abide by the plan.

Earlier in the day, the pro-government al-Watan newspaper said that the Turkish efforts to persuade the rebels to pull out from the demilitarized zone had failed.

It said the rebels in Idlib fired on the government forces' positions in the countryside of Idlib.

Despite the breaches, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that the Turkish-Russian deal is being "successfully carried out" in spite of the breaches by the rebels.

She said that the "conditions in Syria are not easy and in spite of that, the deal is being carried out successfully in the demilitarized zone in Idlib."

She accused the rebels in Idlib of making armed provocations from time to time.