A temporary truce in Syria’s second city, Aleppo, has been extended for another 72 hours as clashes raged further south. International condemnation continues to mount over deadly airstrikes on a displaced persons camp.
Syria’s state news agency, SANA, reported that a “regime of calm” – its preferred euphemism for a limited ceasefire – in the northern city of Aleppo and parts of Latakia province had been extended for 72 hours beginning at 1 a.m. on Saturday (2200 UTC Friday).
Quoting Russia’s Defense Ministry – one of the government’s closest military allies – SANA reported that the decision was made “in order to prevent the situation from worsening” just minutes before the initial 48-hour truce for the city was set to expire.
The United States – which has been highly critical of the Syrian government and Russia – reacted with guarded enthusiasm.
“While we welcome this recent extension, our goal is to get to a point where we no longer have to count the hours and that the cessation of hostilities is fully respected across Syria,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
After fierce fighting between Islamist militias and the government, calm returned to the streets of Aleppo when the ceasefire first came into force at midnight on Thursday, giving residents some respite from two weeks of fighting that killed more than 280 civilians.
Battle for territory
In the south of Aleppo, clashes between regime forces and Islamist rebels and their allies have killed more than 70 on both sides, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Friday.
This comes as the Aleppo-based pro-insurgent Shahba Press news agency accused “regime aircraft” of firing missiles at the camp in Al-Kammouna village on Thursday – an accusation denied by Damascus.
Women and children were reportedly among 28 civilians killed in Thursday’s raids on the camps near the Turkish frontier, which also wounded 50.
The Russians – who have been flying sorties against Islamist foes of the Syrian government since 2014 – also denied involvement.
“The camp may have been shelled either on purpose or by mistake by multiple rocket launchers which are currently being used very actively in this area by terrorists from the Nusra Front,” Russian military spokesman Igor Konashenkov told Russian news agencies.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “outraged” by the attack and UN rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said the camp’s tents could clearly be seen from the air so it was “extremely unlikely” to have been an accident.
jar/rc (AP, Reuters)