Civilians Flee Rebel-Held Valley Near Damascus Amid Airstrikes

Barada Valley Targeted Because of Presence of Nusra Front forces

by Jason Ditz, January 01, 2017

Some 1,300 civilians have fled Syria’s Barada Valley over the weekend, according to military sources, as the ongoing ceasefire across much of the country shifts the focus of Syria’s warplanes to Nusra Front-held territory within the valley.

The Barada Valley is just west of Damascus, an area from which Syrian forces have long been trying to expel rebels. The fighting in the area appears to be the main fighting still going on, as a ceasefire has mostly taken hold nationwide in Syria.

The rebels threatened to end the ceasefire Saturday if attacks on the Barada Valley did not halt, and they apparently briefly did, though indications are that there have been more airstrikes Sunday, which the rebels are presenting as a “violation” of the ceasefire.

There has been ongoing debate since the ceasefire was announced as to whether the Nusra Front was included in the ceasefire, with the rebels insisting they were, and both Russia and Syria insisting they were not. This dispute has continued, with Syrian forces targeting Nusra territory.

The issue is in the language of the ceasefire, which excludes all UN-recognized terrorist organizations. The Nusra Front, as an al-Qaeda affiliate, is recognized as a terrorist group by the UN, but over the summer Nusra rebranded itself under a new name, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which the rebels are arguing isn’t technically the same thing, and thus isn’t technically UN-recognized.

Last 5 posts by Jason Ditz