‘Unilateral’ ceasefire in Idlib

Syrian President BASHAR AL-ASSAD greets crowds in Eastern Ghouta after it was liberated

Russia says Syrian government forces have suspended their operations against foreign-backed Takfiri militants in the northwestern province of Idlib as part of a ‘unilateral’ ceasefire.

‘From 00:00 on May 18, Syrian armed forces unilaterally ceased fire in the Idlib de-escalation zone,’ Russian Defence Ministry’s Centre for Syrian Reconciliation said in a statement.

The demilitarised zone surrounds Idlib and also includes parts of the adjacent provinces of Aleppo and Hama.

The statement said despite the ceasefire, ‘firing continues, targeting government forces’ positions and civilians in the provinces of Hama, Latakia and Aleppo.’

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said the army launched a retaliatory attack on Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) positions after the terrorist group fired rockets and mortar shells at the northern part of Hama province.

HTS, which is a coalition of different factions of terror outfits largely composed of the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Takfiri terrorist group, holds a large part of the province and the zone.

The army has ratcheted up its operations in Idlib to counter numerous flagrant terrorist violations of an earlier de-escalation agreement.

Under the agreement signed between Russia and Turkey last year, Takfiri groups in Idlib had to withdraw from areas bordering Syrian government-controlled territory, but they have refused to do so.

During a UN Security Council meeting last Friday, Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Majid Takht-Ravanchi warned that the continued terrorist presence in Syrian territory is endangering civilian lives.

The Iranian envoy described the situation in Idlib as critical, saying terrorist groups are using ‘over two million civilians as human shields’.

Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari also called for a halt to foreign support for terrorists operating in the province.

‘Ending the suffering of Syrians in Idlib requires stopping hypocrisy and politicisation and investment in terrorists and manipulating people’s destinies and lives,’ he said.

The Russian Defence Ministry says its surface-to-air missile systems have managed to foil an attack by militants from the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, on its main air base in Syria’s western coastal province of Latakia.

The ministry announced in a statement on Monday that militants positioned in the de-escalation zone of Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib had fired six missiles at the strategic Hmeimim airbase at around 8pm (17:00 GMT) the previous day.

Syrian air defences in the Hmeimim air base thwarted the projectiles and drones fired by terrorist groups.

Russian air defence systems destroyed all the projectiles before they could strike the site.

The Russian Defence Ministry noted that multiple launchpads from where Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorists had fired the missiles at the airbase, were detected and destroyed.

The development came only two days after Syrian air defence systems thwarted a drone and missile attack on Hmeimim airbase.

Syria’s state-run television network reported at the time that foreign-sponsored militants positioned in Qardahah village, which overlooks the coastal town of Latakia, as well as Jablah district had fired the projectiles at the base.

Russia has been helping Syrian forces in ongoing battles across the conflict-plagued Arab country.

At least six civilians have been killed and nearly a dozen others injured when Takfiri terrorists lobbed rockets into a refugee camp in northern Syria.

The Russian military assistance, which began in September 2015 at the official request of the Syrian government, has proved effective as Syrians continue to recapture key areas from Daesh and other foreign-backed terrorist groups across the country with the backing of Russian air cover.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011.

The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

Syria has dismissed fabricated news issued by terrorist groups and some media outlets affiliated to them about Syrian armed forces’ use of chemical weapons in the town of Kobani in the western coastal province of Latakia.

An official source at Syria’s Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Sunday reaffirmed a statement by the general command of the armed forces who has denied such claims as completely baseless.

The statement added that Syria had fully cooperated with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which declared Syria free of any chemical weapons.

The source emphasised that Syria has never used chemical weapons in the past and would never use them in the future because the Arab country does not possess such arms in the first place while it also considers the use of toxic weapons against its moral and international obligations.

These recurring, hollow and barefaced media fabrications will never dissuade Syria from fighting terrorism until the full restoration of security and safety across the country, the source said.

Earlier in the day, a military source quoted the general command of the armed forces as saying that Syria is going ahead in fighting terror until the last grain of the Syrian soil is cleared from the scourge.

In the past several years, militants have launched dozens of chemical attacks in Syria.

Damascus has called on the United Nations to take action in this regard.

Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the United States and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons.

The OPCW, a global watchdog, has documented systematic use of nerve agent sarin and chlorine during Syria’s eight-year conflict.

On April 7, 2018, an alleged chemical weapons attack hit the Damascus suburb town of Douma,  just as the Syrian army was about to win the battle against the militants there.

The US, the UK and France have launched joint military strikes against Syria.

Western states blamed the Syrian government for the incident, but Damascus firmly rejected the accusation.