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Bombings, recriminations in a series of towns tied by one ceasefire: ‘People are afraid the agreement will break down’

AMMAN: Intense regime and rebel bombings killed and injured dozens […]

11 May 2016

AMMAN: Intense regime and rebel bombings killed and injured dozens of people on Tuesday in four Syrian towns whose fates have been tied since last September by a “very fragile” UN-brokered truce, leaving residents “afraid that it will break down.”

Rebel-held Zabadani and neighboring towns in Outer Damascus entered into a reciprocal agreement with the regime and its allies in September 2015 that stipulated a ceasefire, aid deliveries and evacuations in exchange for the same in regime-controlled al-Fuaa and Kafariya in Idlib province.

An airstrike in rebel-held Binnish on Tuesday. Image courtesy of Binnish LCC.

One of the terms of the ceasefire was also reportedly the stipulation of a truce in nearby towns in both Idlib and Outer Damascus provinces, including in rebel-held Binnish, immediately south of al-Fuaa and Kafariya. Victory Army rebels, including Ahrar a-Sham and Jabhat a-Nusra, are present in Binnish, which currently hosts thousands of internally displaced Syrians.

“Regime warplanes bombed Binnish three times over the past week,” Mahmoud Ali, an Idlib correspondent for pro-opposition Umayya Press told Syria Direct on Wednesday.  Two airstrikes on Tuesday struck a public market and mosque and “killed around 19 people,” said Ali. Syria Direct could not independently confirm the source of the Binnish bombings, which Syrian state media has not reported.

“Regime planes have violated the agreement more than once, but not at this pace,” the journalist said. “The agreement is very fragile; people are afraid it will break down.”

Also on Tuesday, Victory Army rebels bombarded the blockaded, regime-held towns of al-Fuaa and Kafariya just north of Binnish with “150 artillery shells and mortars,” leaving “17 injured, most critically, including women and children,” the Blockaded al-Fuaa and Kafariya News Network inside the towns posted to Facebook the same day.

On Monday, “a woman was killed and a child injured in al-Fuaa” by rebel snipers, Syrian state media agency SANA reported.

Destruction in a regime-held Idlib town following Tuesday’s shelling by the Victory Army. Photo courtesy of News N.Z.F.K.

Al-Fuaa and Kafariya, pro-government Shiite enclaves, were trapped behind advancing rebel lines last March when the Victory Army, led by Ahrar a-Sham and Jabhat a-Nusra, captured most of Idlib province from the Syrian regime.

Multiple pro-Victory Army activists as well as a member of Ahrar a-Sham who spoke with Syria Direct on Wednesday characterized Tuesday’s shelling of the blockaded towns as retaliation for the airstrikes on Binnish.  

The three towns were quiet on Wednesday, with one member of Ahrar a-Sham in Binnish telling Syria Direct that a ceasefire had been agreed on Tuesday evening “between the Victory Army and Iran,” a claim that Syria Direct could not verify.

On the same day that Binnish, al-Fuaa and Kafariya were bombed, hundreds of kilometers to the south, “more than 100 missiles and rockets fell on Zabadani in less than half an hour, originating from four regime checkpoints,” a media activist inside Outer Damascus’s Zabadani told Syria Direct on Wednesday, requesting anonymity. Most people currently in Zabadani are rebel fighters, alongside a small number of civilians.

“There were two injuries in Zabadani yesterday,” a doctor in neighboring Madaya told Syria Direct on Wednesday, requesting anonymity.

Madaya was not bombed, he says, but residents are closely following nearby violations of the reciprocal truce.

“People are really scared.”

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