Russia, Syrian opposition exchange accusations of ceasefire breaches

Russia and the Syrian opposition on Sunday traded accusations of breaches of Syria's truce agreement, but the country remained largely calm on the second day of the partial ceasefire.

Ahmed Ramadan, a spokesman for the opposition National Coalition, said government forces had breached the Russian- and US-brokered ceasefire in 36 areas.

Russian forces were guilty of two breaches including eight air raids on a village near the central city of Hama, Ramadan said.

He said that the list did not include violence in areas controlled by the Islamic State extremist organization or by the al-Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.

Both organizations are excluded from the truce, although al-Nusra fights alongside more moderate rebel groups, many of which have signed up for it.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group, said that Russian air raids hit a total of eight areas on Sunday, mostly near the northern city of Aleppo.

A Russian-backed government offensive around Aleppo earlier this month sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing and led to the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva.

Moscow, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said that it had registered nine breaches of the truce over the previous 24 hours, the official TASS news agency reported.

The Russian Defence Ministry cited shelling in north-western Syria, where clashes between rebels and Russian-backed government forces were reported throughout Saturday.

It also cited an Islamic State onslaught Saturday on the Kurdish-held border town of Tel Abyad, and accused Turkey of providing artillery-fire backing to the jihadists.

An opposition monitoring group said that more than 180 people were killed on the first day of the partial ceasefire, over half of them in the Islamic State attack on Tel Abyad and nearby towns and villages.

That attack, which was fought off by the Kurdish People's Protection Units with the help of US-led airstrikes, killed 70 jihadists, 20 Kurdish fighters and 10 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Elsewhere in the country, 25 civilians were killed in shelling and gunfire.

Separately, one person died as a result of torture in a government facility and two others died due to the lack of food and healthcare in the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, the Observatory said.

Limited clashes in various parts of the country between government forces, rebels and Islamic State jihadists also cost the lives of over 50 combatants on the various sides, according to the Observatory.

The Russian- and US-backed ceasefire went into effect at midnight on Saturday local time (2200 GMT Friday).

Under its terms, groups who have signed up to it should not be attacked, but action against UN-designated terrorist organizations such as Islamic State and Syrian al-Qaeda branch the al-Nusra Front is still allowed.

Russia and the US have set up a mechanism to exchange information on the locations of groups who are taking part in the ceasefire.

Last update: Sun, 28/02/2016 - 20:41

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