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

  • Kurdish referendum vote latest issue affecting Middle East stability

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO - The Iraqi Kurds' independence referendum could mean further instability in the Middle East, where formal borders have remained in place for decades but recent conflicts have resulted in several de facto partitions. The vote is not binding, and opposition from the international community, as well as Iraq and its neighbours, makes any formal separation unlikely. Source
  • Mexico tallying cost of deadly earthquake

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY -- Mexican government officials are still tallying up the economic losses of the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage in the capital, but for the manager of a downtown restaurant it is already all too clear. Source
  • Convicted Craigslist killer questions evidence surrounding deaths

    World News CTV News
    COLUMBUS, Ohio - An Ohio man convicted of killing three down-and-out men lured by fake Craigslist job offers is questioning the strength of the evidence against him. Lawyers for Richard Beasley say it doesn't make sense that someone would go to such lengths to rob destitute men with little or no money. Source
  • Sports and energy drinks unhealthy for kids and teens, Canadian pediatricians say

    Canada News CBC News
    Most children and teens shouldn't consume sports and energy drinks, and the products should no longer be marketed to them, the Canadian Paediatric Society says. In a new position statement released Tuesday, the society said sports drinks are high in sugar, which contributes to the obesity epidemic as well as dental cavities. Source
  • Trump associate denies Russia collusion ahead of House visit

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON - Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone says there is "not one shred of evidence" that he was involved with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Stone is defending himself in a lengthy statement released ahead of a closed-door appearance before the House intelligence committee Tuesday. Source
  • Witness in murder trial run over in front of Vegas courthouse

    World News Toronto Sun
    LAS VEGAS β€” The sister of a murder victim was hit by a car Monday on a sidewalk outside the Las Vegas courthouse where the man charged in the killing is standing trial and she is on a list of potential witnesses, authorities said. Source
  • Police union blasts handling of Utah nurse arrest probe

    World News CTV News
    SALT LAKE CITY - Two officers under investigation in the rough arrest of a nurse have been unfairly made into pariahs after body-camera footage got widespread attention online, a Utah police union said Monday. The Salt Lake Police Association said in a letter to the mayor and police chief that it is "extremely concerned and dismayed" about handling that has "corrupted" the high-profile investigation, The Deseret News reported. Source
  • Smoke fills plane's cabin after landing at California airport

    World News Toronto Sun
    FRESNO, Calif. β€” Smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at a California airport on Monday, forcing coughing passengers to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters to board the plane, authorities said. Source
  • Man pleads guilty to sucker-punching disabled person

    World News Toronto Sun
    WEST CHESTER, Pa. β€” A man who was caught on video sucker-punching a man with cerebral palsy outside a Pennsylvania store has pleaded guilty to simple assault. Twenty-nine-year-old Barry Robert Baker Jr. of Georgetown, Delaware, entered his plea Monday. Source
  • Canadian describes harrowing tale of Dominica destruction in Hurricane Maria aftermath

    World News CTV News
    It’s been a week since Hurricane Maria pummelled Dominica, and Patrick Mullins still vividly remembers his experience on the ground as the powerful storm tore through the Caribbean island. The 67 -year-old Ontario resident was in Dominica working on a project with local youth when Maria made landfall. Source