Syrian Army Shells Rebel Area Despite Ceasefire Move

BEIRUT (Reuters) -
Turkish soldiers stand on a watchtower at the Atmeh crossing on the Syrian-Turkish border, as seen from the Syrian side, in Idlib governorate. (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)

The Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Wednesday night and early on Thursday, a war monitor said, despite Russia saying on Wednesday that it and Turkey had brokered a new ceasefire there.

The insurgents fired artillery at government forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said. Airstrikes paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning, it added.

On Wednesday, the Russian military said that Moscow and Ankara had agreed a complete new ceasefire in the northwest, centered on Idlib province, but it did not say how long the truce would last.

The Syrian government launched its offensive against northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of the rebellion against it, in late April.

Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas. Turkey backs some insurgent groups.

Moscow and Ankara had agreed a partial truce last September that called for an end to bombardment of the area and for Ankara to pull heavy weapons and jihadist groups from front-line areas.

The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced, to flee further north and seek shelter along the Turkish border.

Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the government’s offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the jihadist groups that dominate in Idlib.

On Thursday morning, warplanes targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, the Observatory said.