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Syria government extends cease fire in Aleppo

Despite another 48-hour extension, world leaders are struggling to get faltering peace talks in Syria back on track


 
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian soldiers gather around a Syrian national flag in Palmyra, Syria, Sunday, March 27, 2016. Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group say government forces backed by Russian airstrikes have driven Islamic State fighters from the historic central town of Palmyra, held by the extremists since May. (SANA via AP)

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian soldiers gather around a Syrian national flag in Palmyra, Syria, Sunday, March 27, 2016. Syrian state media and an opposition monitoring group say government forces backed by Russian airstrikes have driven Islamic State fighters from the historic central town of Palmyra, held by the extremists since May. (SANA via AP)

DAMASCUS, Syria — 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. Just hours earlier, 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 neighbourhood of Rashideen. Monday’s airstrikes came a day after opposition fighters shelled the government-held neighbourhood 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.


 
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