Syria’s fledgling ceasefire could be in jeopardy “if the regime continues its violations,” a consortium of Syrian rebel groups warned Saturday.
The warning comes a day after two opposition groups, the Syrian National Coalition and Syria’s High Negotiations Committee, claimed that the truce was violated more than 30 times in the first 24 hours of its coming into force.
Syria’s state news agency, SANA, in turn cited the Russian Coordination Center, based at the Russian Hmeymim air base in Latakia, Syria, as saying Friday that “terrorist groups” had violated the ceasefire a dozen times.
“Over the past 24 hours, terrorist groups breached the cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria 12 times in Damascus, Aleppo and Hama,” the SANA report said, with half the instances occurring in Damascus.
The report didn’t specify which rebel groups were allegedly involved but added that “terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra targeted a number of towns and neighborhoods in Aleppo and its countryside with rocket and mortar shells.”
Jabhat al-Nusra is another name for Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the former al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which was excluded from the ceasefire agreement as an extremist group, according to Turkey and Russia.
The fragile nationwide ceasefire, brokered by Turkey and Russia, began early Friday.
It is the basis for planned peace talks between the opposition and the regime to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan, in the New Year.
UN Security Council vote
The UN Security Council is expected to vote Saturday on a Russian-sponsored resolution backing the ceasefire arrangement in Syria, as well as supporting the ensuing peace process with Russia and Turkey as guarantors.
The latest effort comes after previous ceasefire attempts by the international community crumbled.
A successful nationwide ceasefire hinges on many fighting factions laying down arms. Groups from Iraq, Iran and Lebanon also are fighting alongside the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Turkey and Russia previously said the ceasefire deal excludes groups considered “terrorist organizations” by the UN Security Council, ruling out ISIS and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham.
But alliances between different rebel groups make matters complicated. The Russian Defense Ministry said influential Islamist groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam had signed up to the process. But the Syrian army asserted that groups linked to Fateh al-Sham, of which Ahrar al-Sham has been the most prominent, would be excluded from the deal.
Weakened rebel position
The latest truce also follows several ceasefire agreements brokered by Turkey and Russia in the city of Aleppo this month. Most were broken, but one held long enough to allow the evacuations of tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from eastern Aleppo.
Eastern Aleppo had been under rebel control for four years and had been choked off by the Syrian regime, leading to shortages of food and supplies for civilians.
The Syrian regime then gained full control of Aleppo, a major turning point that has limited the opposition’s military and political options.
The brutal civil war has raged on for nearly six years and killed an estimated 400,000 people.