A ceasefire in Idlib agreed between Moscow and Ankara was violated just hours after it came into force. With the Syrian Government and Opposition factions blaming each-other for the violations, the future of this latest ceasefire remains uncertain.
For a brief few hours, the residents of Syria’s embattled Idlib Province experienced a semblance of calm resulting from a ceasefire agreement that was signed between Moscow and Ankara.
The ceasefire, starting on 00:01 Sunday, allowed the residents of the region, especially the town of Ma’arat Nu’man, to assess the damage to their homes and rescue what few valuables they have left. However, portions of the town, which has been the epicentre of the recent ground offensive by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), have been left completely destroyed.
The calm did not last long. Just hours after the ceasefire came into effect, the sound of artillery bombardment echoed across Idlib and Aleppo. Some 15 people are estimated to have been killed in Idlib City and the towns of Sarmin and Nairab. The renewed bombardment was accompanied by heavy ground fighting between the SAA and Hayy’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) along the outskirts of Aleppo City.
As usual, the violation of the ceasefire was accompanied by blame. Neither Damascus, nor the HTS was keen about the ceasefire to begin with. The former viewed it as an unnecessary hindrance to its on-going operations while the latter described any ceasefire brokered by Moscow as a sham. For the HTS, as well as the Syrian Opposition, the violation of the ceasefire was instigated by the SAA, as have the previous ceasefire violations.
The SAA, meanwhile, accused the failure on the HTS, claiming that it was the first to break the ceasefire when it shelled the SAA-held Jarjanaz, as well as Aleppo City where three people were killed. Damascus has combined the defensive rhetoric with the argument that the HTS is not covered under the ceasefire on account of it being a terrorist group.
Such accusations and counter-accusations have become a well-practised piece of pantomime over the course of the years.
There are fears that the SAA’s shelling of Aleppo in particular is in preparation for a new ground offensive in the western countryside of the province which remains at the hands of the Opposition. There have been rumours of an impending ground offensive and the SAA has been reinforcing its positions around the city recently.
All these calculations mean little for around 3.5 million residents in Idlib, including 1.4 Million displaced over the course of the past year. Many of their concerns is about surviving the winter with food and shelter and hope that the errant bombardment of the region stays far from their meagre shelters.