Damascus residents weary of reports on provisional truce

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Residents of the Syrian capital expressed skepticism on Monday about reports that a "provisional agreement" has been reached for a truce, a day after a wave of Islamic State bombings killed about 130 people in government-held areas near Damascus and beyond.

See Full Article

Details of the tentative cease-fire, announced in Jordan on Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have not been made public. Even if a truce were to take hold, the Islamic State is not party to any such cease-fires or negotiations for a truce.

Sunday's blasts that ripped through the Sayyida Zeinab suburb of Damascus and the central city of Homs were among the deadliest bombings in government-held areas in Syria's devastating five-year civil war.

The Islamic State group claimed both attacks. The extremists are dug in on the outskirts of the two cities and have repeatedly targeted pro-government strongholds.

The mood in government-controlled Damascus was subdued on Monday. Inside the Hamidiyeh Souk, a popular bazaar which is typically crowded with shoppers on any given day, people said they were worried that a ceasefire would not be evenly observed and could leave the Syrian authorities vulnerable.

"I hope there will be no ceasefire. Because if there is a ceasefire, Turks will increase their support for criminals and traitors," said Ahmad Al-Omar from the northern Aleppo province, adding that Turkey may seek to let opposition fighters in via its border with Syria.

Others at the bazaar echoed President Bashar Assad's statements that a ceasefire could give an advantage to rebel forces and also the Islamic State group.

"I believe that those proposals now are ... a pretext to stop the advance of the Syrian army which is trying to liberate the homeland," said Ahmad Al-Issa.

Sunday's blasts came as Kerry announced that a "provisional agreement" has been reached on a cessation of hostilities that could begin in the next few days. But he acknowledged that it's not finalized and all parties might not automatically comply.

Kerry declined to go into the details of the agreement, saying it "is not yet done."

"The modalities for a cessation of hostilities are now being completed," Kerry said, adding that it was "possible over the course of these next hours."

The Damascus authorities said the government was ready to take part in a truce as long as it is not used by militants to reinforce their positions. Syrian troops, backed by Russian warplanes are on a major offensive in the northern Aleppo province, trying to seal the border with Turkey, a key supporter of the rebels, before any truce is reached.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government's supply route to the city of Aleppo was cut by heavy fighting Monday as the army, supported by allied militias and the Russian air force, fought to consolidate its recent gains in the northern province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of contacts to monitor the war, said Islamic militias assaulted government-held positions around Khanaser, a town southeast of Aleppo, setting off intense clashes that have lasted through the day. Khanaser lies along the government's only access route to Aleppo.

Aleppo, Syria's largest city and one-time commercial centre, is divided between the government and its opponents, while IS holds a wide front to the east of the city.

Fighting has been fierce in Aleppo province in recent weeks amid a government offensive to cut off the rebel stronghold.

The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement on Monday condemning Sunday's bomb blasts in Damascus and Homs and calling for a "proper, principled response" from the international community to prevent terrorist groups from further aggravating the situation in Syria and inciting sectarian strife.

"The brutal crimes by extremists are aimed at intimidating the civilian population and undermining attempts to achieve a lasting political settlement of the Syrian crisis in the interests of all Syrians and efforts to end the violence and bloodshed," the Russian statement said.

Associated Press writers Lynn Berry in Moscow, Zeina Karam and Philip Issa in Beirut and Albert Aji in Damascus contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Venomous snakes stolen from Ontario home

    Canada News CTV News
    THOROLD, Ont. - Police in the Niagara Region of southern Ontario are hunting for a number of venomous snakes. Niagara Region police say the reptiles were stolen on Saturday evening when a home was broken into in Thorold. Source
  • 5 believed dead after plane hits Australian mall [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MELBOURNE, Australia — Five people were believed killed when a light plane crashed in flames into a shopping mall on Tuesday in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said. The five were on a twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air that crashed about 45 minutes before the Direct Factory Outlet mall in suburban Essendon was to open, Police Minister Lisa Neville said. Source
  • Food banks growing own goods as donations decline

    Canada News CTV News
    Food banks are looking to alternative solutions to help augment declining fresh produce donations. “We have no farms in Mississauga, so unlike my counterparts in other areas of Ontario, who have more fresh than they can handle, we don’t get enough fresh here,” explained Mississauga Food Bank’s Executive Director Chris Hatch to CTV News Channel. Source
  • Loblaw resets passwords after security breach of its loyalty program

    Canada News CBC News
    Loblaw has reset passwords for all its PC Plus rewards collectors' online accounts after points were stolen from some members' accounts. The company posted a warning on its website saying it requires all members to create new passwords — regardless of whether or not they changed them following the recent security breach. Source
  • Poll finds 6 in 10 on board with Canada's refugee targets

    Canada News CTV News
    A new poll has found that nearly six in 10 Canadians believe the Trudeau government has “made the right call” with its 2017 refugee targets, while about one in four believe Canada should have followed U.S. Source
  • Judge allows 2nd girl's statements in 'Slender Man' case

    World News CTV News
    Anissa Weier, 15, appears in court in Waukesha, Wis. on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017. (Michael Sears / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) Source
  • Bell Canada forced seriously ill woman to go to store: Tribunal

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal says Bell Canada discriminated against a seriously ill woman by forcing her to violate her doctor’s orders and go to a store in person in order to acquire a cellphone. Source
  • Flash flood warnings issued in northern California

    World News CBC News
    Forecasters issued flash flood warnings Monday throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere in northern California as downpours swelled creeks and rivers in the already soggy region. The National Weather Service said heavy rain could persist into the evening and was expected to cause flooding on the Carmel River in Monterey County and Coyote Creek in Santa Clara County. Source
  • Justin Trudeau conveys 'sincere regrets' for language gaffe

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    In Valentine's Day messages to Quebec anglophones, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed "sincere regrets" for refusing to answer questions in English last month. The incident caused an uproar, with several complaints filed against Trudeau with the Commissioner of Official Languages. Source
  • 5 killed after plane crashes into mall in Australia

    World News CBC News
    Five people were believed killed when a light plane crashed in flames into a shopping mall on Tuesday in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said. Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said it appeared there were no survivors on the plane, but no one on the ground was injured. Source