Hardline Syrian rebel group rejects truce

Islamist Ahrar al-Sham rejects truce in Syria brokered by the U.S. and Russia.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Ahrar al-Sham fighters
Ahrar al-Sham fighters
Reuters

An influential Syrian rebel group, the hardline Islamist Ahrar al-Sham, on Sunday rejected the truce deal brokered by Russia and the United States hours before it was due to begin.

A high-ranking member of the group, which works closely with former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, said in a statement on YouTube that the deal would only serve to "reinforce" the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad and "increase the suffering" of civilians.

Ahrar al-Sham, which has an influential presence on the ground in Syria's brutal war, is the first rebel group to officially react to the deal reached on Friday following marathon talks in Geneva.

"The people cannot accept half-solutions," the group's deputy leader Ali al-Omar said in the YouTube video to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, when the truce is due to come into force.

"The Russian-American deal... will send all the sacrifices and gains of our people who have risen up into smoke. It will only serve to reinforce the regime and surround the revolution militarily."

Ahrar al-Sham is part of the Islamic Front, a coalition of seven Islamist rebel groups.

Omar also rejected the aspect of the deal in which Washington is supposed to convince mainstream opposition fighters to break their alliance with Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as Al-Nusra Front which broke off from Al-Qaeda in July.

Fateh al-Sham, which is not covered by the truce deal, has also dismissed the accord.

"It's simple -- the Russian-American deal is intended to eliminate those who protect Syrians," its spokesman Mostafa Mahamed wrote on Twitter.

"The negotiations and the deals which do not take account of fighters on the ground are useless."

The announcement of the truce after weeks of talks between the U.S. and Russia -- which back opposing sides in the Syrian war -- comes with opposition forces struggling on the ground.

Pro-regime forces reimposed a devastating siege on Aleppo's eastern districts last week in a major blow to the rebels.

The Assad regime and its allies have said they will respect the truce deal.

One of these allies is Hezbollah, which has intervened militarily in Syria on behalf of Assad and announced its support for the truce earlier.

In a statement on its official media arm Al-Manar, the group's unnamed "field commander for Syria operations" said Hezbollah "stands with the ceasefire."

"Syria's allies are completely committed to what the Syrian leadership, government, and security and political forces have decided in terms of the ceasefire," the statement said.

But it pledged to pursue an "open, relentless war against the terrorists" of the Islamic State (ISIS) and Fateh al-Sham.

Hezbollah has dispatched between 5,000 and 8,000 fighters to bolster the beleaguered Syrian army.

The group receives military and financial support from Iran, which threw its weight behind the truce deal on Sunday.

"Iran welcomes any establishment of a ceasefire in Syria and facilitating of access of all people of this country to humanitarian aid," said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

AFP contributed to this report.



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