Rebels: Syrian Ceasefire Violations Could Put Truce in Jeopardy

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(CNN) – Rebels in the Free Syrian Army have warned they will no longer adhere to Syria’s fledgling ceasefire if the regime continues to violate it, according to a statement seen by CNN.

For now, the ceasefire remains in effect despite skirmishes and violations reported by both sides, according to the FSA statement and Syrian state-run SANA news agency.

Airstrikes hit three villages Saturday in the Damascus suburb of Wadi Barada, an activist there told CNN. Two women were injured by Hezbollah sniper fire in another village, Abu Mohammad al-Bardawi, the activist, said.

A day earlier, al-Bardawi said more than 20 airstrikes were reported in the area, which is home to a major water spring that supplies Damascus. CNN could not independently verify the reports.

Syria’s state news agency, SANA, has not reported on military activity Saturday in Wadi Barada.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday that regime forces faced strong resistance from Islamist militants near Wadi Barada.

Rockets, mortar shells

On Friday, two opposition groups, the Syrian National Coalition and Syria’s High Negotiations Committee, claimed the truce was violated more than 30 times in the first 24 hours of its coming into force.

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 of 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 FSA encompasses a number of predominantly moderate rebel groups across Syria.

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.

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