Syrian Rebels Threaten to Withdraw From Ceasefire

Rebels Demand Russia Stop Syria Targeting Rebels Nationwide

by Jason Ditz, January 01, 2017

Syria’s ceasefire has mostly held through the weekend, and managed to get an endorsement from the UN Security Council on Saturday. At the same time, however, rebels are threatening to withdraw from the pact soon, accusing the government of widespread violations.

At issue, as ever, is the status of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which the rebels insisted are included in the truce, and the government insists are not. Syrian forces have continued to target Nusra and their allies throughout the ceasefire, and that is leading the rebels to demand Russia stop Syria from all strikes anywhere in the country or risk seeing the truce collapse.

The source of this confusion appears to be the language of the ceasefire excluding “UN-designated terrorist organizations.” While the Nusra Front is indeed such a group, they changed their official name over the summer, and the rebels are arguing that means they’re not technically terrorists anymore.

This was an inevitable source of dispute, as both sides were presenting totally different interpretations before the ceasefire even came into effect, and it’s not clear why either side thought they could leave the matter unresolved and not have it become an immediate risk to the ceasefire.

Either way, the hope is to keep the ceasefire together long enough to have some peace talks, but it’s totally unclear at this point whether that is possible or not, with Syrian forces eager to add to recent gains against Nusra while the rebels want to use the ceasefire as a way to stop the momentum and get Nusra and its allies, materially all of the non-ISIS rebels left in Syria, back on an even keel.

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