New Cold War.org, Feb 27, 2016
Two news reports are enclosed, excerpted, and further readings are below that.
Russia halts air strikes as Syria truce takes hold
Al Jazeera, Saturday, Feb 27, 2016
Russia has halted air strikes in Syria in accordance with a ceasefire brokered by the country and the US. “Russia’s air force fully halted bombing in the green zone – that is in those areas and those armed groups which had sent us ceasefire requests,” Lieutenant-General Sergei Rudskoi, a senior representative of the General Staff, said.
A lull in fighting was reported throughout most of Syria on Saturday, hours after the US-Russia brokered “cessation of hostilities” agreement took effect. The UN Security Council unanimously passed a vote late on Friday to support the pause in fighting in Syria, and demanded that all parties to the agreement fulfill their commitments to end hostilities. The ceasefire began at midnight Damascus time on Saturday (22:00 GMT Friday).
Al Jazeera’s Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Turkey’s Gaziantep on the Syria border, said, “The situation is calm – the truce is largely holding – for the first time in many years.
“The airbase in Latakia, which the Russians use for their air strikes, is very calm as well.”
Rudskoi said while Russia would continue air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, al-Nusra Front, it was keeping its aircraft on the ground for now “to avoid any possible mistakes”. He said Russia had given to the United States maps showing the location of opposition groups pledging to abide by the ceasefire, as well as ISIL and al-Nusra Front units. He said 74 opposition units – including more than 6,100 fighters – had agreed to adhere to the truce.
While there were no reports of air strikes or heavy artillery fire, violence was reported on Saturday.
Reporting from an impromptu camp for displaced civilians near the Bab al-Salaama crossing inside Syria near the Turkish border, Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal said people were hopeful that the “cessation of hostilities may allow for aid to come in, may allow for better shelter to be set up for them”…
Guns fall silent in Syria
By Tom Perry and Mariam Karouny, Reuters, Feb 27, 2016
BEIRUT – Guns mostly fell silent in Syria and Russian air raids stopped on Saturday, the first day of a cessation of hostilities that the United Nations has described as the best hope for peace in five years of civil war. Under the U.S.-Russian accord accepted by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and many of his foes, fighting should cease so aid can reach civilians and talks can open to end a war that has killed more than 250,000 people and made 11 million homeless.
Russia, which says it intends to continue strikes against areas held by Islamist fighters that are not covered by the truce, said it would suspend all flights over Syria for the first day to ensure no wrong targets were hit by mistake.
The truce seemed largely to be holding, though rebels reported what they described as occasional government violations, and one commander warned that unchecked, the breaches could lead to the agreement’s collapse.
Jaish al-Nasr, a group affiliated to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) which has backed the truce, said government forces had fired mortars, rockets and machine guns in Hama province and that warplanes had been constantly present in the sky. “Compared to the previous days it is nothing, but we consider that they broke the truce,” Mohamed Rasheed, head of the group’s media office, told Reuters.
Another FSA-affiliated group, Alwiyat Seif al Sham, said two of its fighters had been killed and four more wounded when government tanks shelled them in rural areas west of Damascus.
A Syrian military source denied the army was violating the truce agreement. State media described rocket attacks near Damascus and several deadly attacks by Islamic State. But overall the level of violence was far reduced.
“Let’s pray that this works because frankly this is the best opportunity we can imagine the Syrian people has had for the last five years in order to see something better and hopefully something related to peace,” U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said at a midnight news conference in Geneva. “I think that the feeling that we have today is that the situation is very different but of course every day has to be monitored,” he said.
The agreement is the first of its kind to be attempted in four years and, if it holds, would be the most successful truce of the war so far.
De Mistura said he intends to restart peace talks on March 7, provided the halt in fighting largely holds…
The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said Islamic State fighters had attacked Tel Abyad, a town near the Turkish border, prompting air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition to try to drive them back.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said it would suspend air strikes in a “green zone” — defined as those parts of Syria held by groups that have accepted the cessation of hostilities — and make no flights at all on Saturday.
“Given the entry into force of the U.N. Security Council resolution that supports the Russian-American agreements on a ceasefire, and to avoid any possible mistakes when carrying out strikes, Russian military planes, including long-range aviation, are not carrying out any flights over Syrian territory on Feb. 27,” the ministry said.
Sergei Rudskoi, a lieutenant-general in the Russian air force, told a news briefing that Moscow had sent the United States a list of 6,111 fighters who had agreed to the ceasefire deal and 74 populated areas which should not be bombed…
Suicide attacks kill six in Syria’s Hama province: state media, Reuters, Feb 27, 2016
Islamic State attacks Syrian Kurdish settlements amid proclaimed ceasefire, RT.com, Saturday, Feb 27, 2016 (full text)
The Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group has attacked two Kurdish towns in Syria near the Turkish border. The incident occurred after a ceasefire was proclaimed in Syria. The ceasefire does not include IS jihadists.
The IS terrorists attacked the towns of Tel Abyad and Suluk early on Saturday. They are controlled by the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), YPG spokesman, Redur Xelil as well as Turkish security sources told Reuters.
The YPG and Kurdish internal security forces managed to “crush this attack and encircle the attackers,” according to Xelil. “The attackers were eliminated,” he told Reuters, without giving any details on the death toll.
Xelil also told Reuters that some of the IS fighters had come to the area from Turkey, claiming that the Turkish government supports the jihadist group. Ankara has regularly denied such accusations, saying that it is impossible for extremists to cross from Turkey into Syria since measures to seal off the border were recently taken by the Turkish authorities.
Meanwhile, Turkish security sources confirmed that the jihadists had attacked on two fronts, saying that gunfire and explosions had been heard in the Turkish border town of Akcakale for several hours, Reuters reports. The source added that a war plane, allegedly from the U.S.-led coalition, had hit the IS positions.
The U.S.-led coalition reported that it had carried out ten air strikes on Saturday to stop the IS assault, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, as cited by Reuters. The source says that at least 45 IS militants, as well as 20 Kurdish fighters, were killed in the clashes.
The attack left a Russian team from the REN TV trapped in the neighboring Kurdish city of Kobani.
“We have been working in the Kurdish city of Kobani for several days and were going to leave it for Iraqi Kurdistan. Suddenly a massive attack of the IS militants on the neighboring town of Tel Abyad erupted today in the morning,” one of the journalists wrote on his Facebook page, RIA Novosti reports.
“Now there is fighting in 15 spots in Tel Abyad. The city is on fire. The road from Kobani to the east, which we were going to use, is now too dangerous – we are locked in Kobani,” the journalist added.
The US and Russian backed Syrian ceasefire came into effect on Saturday at midnight Damascus time. The truce, however, does not apply to groups designated by the UN as terror organizations, such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. [end]
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