Syrian truce teeters after US strike kills government troops and rebels are hit in Aleppo

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 10:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2016, 9:35pm

Syria’s ceasefire was on the brink of collapsing Sunday, after a US-led coalition strike killed dozens of regime soldiers and Aleppo city was hit by its first air raids in nearly a week.

The barrage of strikes on rebel-held districts of Aleppo risks reigniting battlefronts in the city and could be the most serious threat to the ceasefire so far.

A halt to fighting around Aleppo and the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid were key components of the fragile deal that took effect last Monday evening.

The ceasefire’s co-sponsors, Russia and the United States, have traded accusations over its fraying, with relations strained even further after the US-led raid killed scores of Syrian soldiers on Saturday.

Syria accused the United States of seeking the failure of the ceasefire.

“The objective of this US aggression is to bring about the failure of the truce,” said Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations.

Sunday was the deadliest day of the truce so far, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with 11 civilians killed in areas where the ceasefire was supposed to have taken hold.

Russia said the Aleppo was “especially tense”, blaming the instability on rebels.

“The amount of shelling by rebel groups against positions of Syrian government troops and of residential areas is increasing,” said defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government of undermining the ceasefire.

“We must not forget that it is first of all the (Syrian) regime, and it is always the regime, which has jeopardised the US-Russian ceasefire,” he said.

The evening strikes on Aleppo killed one woman and wounded others, said the Britain-based Observatory, which could not identify who carried them out.

Ten people including a child were killed Sunday when a pair of barrel bombs hit an opposition-held town in the southern province of Daraa, the Observatory said.

“Today was the highest death toll since the truce began,” said Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman.

The deaths took the number of civilians killed across Syria on Sunday up to 11, and up to 26 since the ceasefire began on Monday, he added.

Tensions between the US and Russia escalated after the raid by the American-led coalition that killed dozens of Syrian soldiers.

A senior adviser to Assad said on Sunday that Damascus believes the strike was “intentional”.

“None of the facts on the ground show that what happened was a mistake or a coincidence,” Buthaina Shaaban said.

The Observatory said at least 90 soldiers were killed in the strike on a strategic hill near Deir Ezzor. Moscow put the death toll at 62.

The Syrian army has been fighting off an Islamic State group offensive around the key Deir Ezzor airbase since last year.