The death toll from air strikes on a Syrian town in a “de-escalation zone” has risen to 61, a war monitor said yesterday, a demonstration of the fragile state of areas set up in attempt to ease the violence.
Rebels blamed Russian warplanes of carrying out Monday’s attack and said they would fight back against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and his Russian and Iranian backers in the six-year-old conflict.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said three air strikes hit the market in Atareb, west of Aleppo, and killed at least 61 people.
Atareb is inside what is known as a de-escalation zone under an agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran to reduce the bloodshed.
But despite the diplomatic efforts, fighting continues in many areas, including Aleppo, Idlib, Raqqa, Deir al-Zor and Hama.
“(The zones) did de-escalate fighting,” UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told Reuters.
But lately, “there has been increased fighting also.” The zones were set up under the Astana process, a series of talks in the capital of Kazakhstan between Russia and Iran, and the rebels’ supporter Turkey.
They agreed in September to deploy observers on the edge of a de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib province, which is largely under the control of Islamist insurgents.
Following the air strikes, the Tahrir al-Sham alliance denounced the ceasefire talks and pledged to keep fighting government forces and their Russian and Iranian allies.
“This aggression and crimes confirms for us that there is no solution with the colonisers without fighting and struggling,” it said.
Tahrir al-Sham includes the group formerly known as the Nusra Front, which changed its name last year when it broke formal ties to Al Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Russia and Iran must do all they can to stop air strikes targeting civilians in Syria and reach a definitive cessation of hostilities, France said yesterday after at least 61 people were killed in the bombing of an outdoor market.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitoring group reported three air strikes hit the rebel-held town of Atareb in west of Aleppo on Monday.
Atareb is inside what is known as a “de-escalation” zone under a deal agreed between Turkey, Russia and Iran to reduce violence in the area.
Turkey has backed some rebel groups while Russia and Iran are the Syrian government’s main allies.
“France condemns the bombings on 13 November in Atareb, which caused the deaths of dozens of civilians,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne told reporters in a daily briefing.
“We call on the allies of the Damascus regime to do their utmost to stop these unacceptable attacks and to bring about a definitive cessation of hostilities.”
Romatet-Espagne also said that an humanitarian aid convoy that had reached the besieged rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta on Sunday was not enough and indicated that Moscow should do more.
UN humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said last week that the area of some 400,000 civilians faces “complete catastrophe” because aid deliveries are blocked, and hundreds of people need urgent medical evacuation.
“The safe, comprehensive, unconditional and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all civilian populations in need is an absolute necessity,” Romatet-Espagne said.
“It is the most demanding requirement in the discussions we have with our partners, especially Russia. Deliveries that may have taken place are clearly insufficient.”
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