Syria government extends cease-fire in Aleppo

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2016 4:28 PM

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A fragile and limited cease-fire in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo and its surrounding countryside has been extended for the third time, for another 48 hours starting at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Syrian military said Monday.

The extension came a couple of hours before an earlier cease-fire was set to expire at 12:01 Tuesday morning. It is not clear why the one-hour gap was planned between the new cease-fire and the expiring one.

Just hours before the government announced the cease-fire, the United Sates said that a new agreement with Russia would replace localized, piecemeal cease-fires in Syria with a revived, nationwide truce. It was not clear if other announcements regarding cease-fires in the rest of the country would follow.

A joint U.S.-Russia statement made no explicit reference to ending the practice of pursuing partial truces.

The extremist groups the Nusra Front, Al-Qaida's branch in Syria, and its more powerful rival the Islamic State group, are not included in the cease-fire agreement. An intricate landscape where government troops, extremist groups, and Western-backed rebels operate, often side by side, has made an earlier cease-fire reached in late February difficult to sustain and monitor.

But also, elusive political talks have also hardened positions, endangering the cease-fire. World leaders are struggling to get faltering peace talks back on track.

Aleppo has seen the worst violence since an earlier cease-fire reached in late February collapsed. Nearly 300 civilians were killed in several days.

Syria's military said the new cease-fire would expire at midnight Wednesday.

There were limited breaches of the most recent five-day cease-fire from both sides.

Multiple air raids Monday struck rebel-held areas while shelling hit government-controlled parts of the northern city of Aleppo, two opposition monitoring groups and Syrian state media reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committee said the airstrikes hit several areas in Aleppo, including the neighborhood of Rashideen. Monday's airstrikes came a day after opposition fighters shelled the government-held neighborhood of Midan, killing a child, state media and activists said.

Opposition activists also reported air raids and shelling on the town of Khan Touman, just south of Aleppo, which was captured Friday by a coalition of insurgent groups including the Nusra Front. The battle left at least 13 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards force dead as well as troops and pro-government gunmen.

The town was captured by a coalition known as Jaish al-Fatah, or Army of Conquest, an ultraconservative group led by the Nusra Front, and the jihadi militias Jund al-Aqsa and Ahrar al-Sham.