Will A Ceasefire Go Into Effect Tomorrow Across Syria?

February 26, 2016
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber attacking Inkhel in the Daraa province. Screenshot from LCC video

Live Updates:

The previous post in our Putin in Syria column can be found here.

Ahead Of Tonight’s Ceasefire, Russian And Regime Aircraft Pound Syrian Rebels Across Country

With the partial ceasefire deal brokered by the United States and Russia due to come into effect at 22:00 GMT, the Russian and Syrian regime air forces have intensified strikes on rebel-held areas today.

Strikes have been reported across the country, from Aleppo in the north to Daraa near the borders of Israel and Jordan in the south.

Anadan, a suburb northwest of Aleppo city, was reportedly struck several times over the course of the day: 

To the west of Anadan, Russian jets reportedly struck cars on a road near Darat Izza, killing three civilians:

The most intense air attacks were seen in the suburbs around Damascus, with dozens of strikes on Marjeh, Douma, Daraya and Jobar.

According to the Qasioun news agency, Russian jets conducted more than 50 air strikes in the East Ghouta area and 20 in Douma. 

The Syrian Local Coordination Committees (LCC) report that at least 11 people were killed.

On the other side of the capital, Syrian Air Force helicopters dropped bombs on the Daraya suburb:

In the south, the LCC posted video footage of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber conducting a strike on rebel-held Inhel in the Daraa province:
Rebel fighters have also continued to shell regime and YPG positions in the Aleppo region:

One interesting video uploaded today shows Free Syrian Army-aligned fighters using a US-made TOW missile to attack an advanced, Russian-made T-90 tank west of Aleppo:

It is notable that the much-vaunted Shtora defence system on the tank was either disabled or did not detect the incoming missile and launch smoke grenades. 

It is unclear whether the missile penetrated the tanks armour, or whether the blast was deflected by the explosive reactive armour bricks on the top of the turret. 

With regards to the ceasefire, there are two key problems:

First, the ceasefire will allow continued attacks on not only ISIS but also Jabhat al-Nusra (a Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda).

But Jabhat al-Nusra fighters operate alongside other rebel groups and are widely distributed across the front line. To attack al-Nusra would necessarily involve attacking settlements held by other groups.

Raja Abdulrahim and Sam Dagher discuss this problem at length today in The Wall Street Journal:

Terror Group Complicates Syrian Cease-Fire

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services. Exclusion of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front will make it difficult to maintain a peace between Assad regime and U.S.-backed groups BEIRUT-The exclusion of Nusra Front from the Syrian cease-fire set to begin Saturday poses a predicament for those who support the deal.

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Feb 26, 2016 17:19 (GMT)

Yesterday Syria Direct interviewed five FSA spokesmen on their views on the ceasefire.

They too expressed concern about the exclusion of Jabhat al-Nusra from the ceasefire, saying it would lead to continued attacks on civilians.

Notably Muhammad a-Sheikh, spokesman for the FSA Second Coastal Division, thanked al-Nusra for withdrawing their fighters from bases in settlements in Idlib as an attempt to avoid giving the Russian Air Force a pretext to bomb residential areas. However a-Sheikh did not believe that this would make much difference as “the Russians haven’t differentiated between civilians and combatants since the beginning.”

Five rebel spokesmen, commanders react to 'cessation of hostilities' to take effect Saturday

Here, spokesmen and commanders with five Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated rebel brigades react to the "cessation of hostilities" agreement initially hammered out between Russia and the United States on February 11, whose final terms were announced on the 22nd and is slated to take effect 12am Saturday.

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Feb 26, 2016 17:25 (GMT)

Meanwhile Jabhat al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, released an audio statement today calling on other rebel units to reject the ceasefire:

On the subject of Saudi Arabia, we note that Saudi F-15S Strike Eagle bombers have finally, after weeks of speculation, arrived at Turkey’s Incirlik air base, indicating the possibility of a Saudi and Turkish intervention in the conflict is growing:

— Pierre Vaux