Syria conflict: Rebels pledge to keep fighting

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Produce are covered in dust as people inspect a site hit by what activists said were airstrikes carried out by the Russian air force on a busy market place in the town of Ariha, in Idlib province, Syria November 29, 2015. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

Rebel groups in Syria have told the BBC they will not stop fighting because they do not believe that Russia will end its bombing campaign in support of the government.

They have expressed scepticism over a deal by world powers to push for a cessation of hostilities within a week.

They have also reiterated their demand that President Bashar al-Assad be removed from power.

Earlier the president said he wanted to retake “the whole country” from rebels.

Three Syrian rebel groups have expressed doubts to the BBC over the cessation of hostilities agreement:

  • A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said: “We remain sceptical all the time about the Russians.”
  • The conservative Ahrar al-Sham group said that it would not stop fighting until government shelling stopped, safe border crossings were opened for civilians, prisoners released and besieged areas relieved
  • Faylaq al-Sham – part of a coalition of seven different groups operating in the north – said that it would not relinquish its weapons until President Assad was removed

Riad Hijab, co-ordinator of Syria’s main opposition bloc, earlier told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that to announce a cessation of hostilities before making progress in the political process “is not realistic, objective or logical”.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Thousands of Syrians have been displaced by the fighting Image copyright AFP Image caption Thousands of Syrians have fled fighting in Aleppo province and sought shelter at the Turkish border

Agreement to try to bring about a cessation of hostilities and allow more access for humanitarian aid was reached by world powers late on Thursday in Germany, but neither the Syrian government nor the rebels were involved.

So far there has been no sign of the UN realising its hopes of delivering aid imminently to more besieged areas.

A new UN task force set up to co-ordinate aid distributions convened in Geneva on Friday.

Some Syrian cities have been cut off from aid for more than a year because of fighting. About 13.5 million people are in need, the UN says.

‘Fighting terrorism’

In his rare interview recorded on Thursday, Mr Assad told AFP news agency that defeating the groups ranged against him could take some time due to the involvement of regional powers.

Mr Assad expressed support for peace talks but said negotiations did not mean “we stop fighting terrorism”. And he vowed to sever the rebels’ supply route from Turkey.

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, have almost encircled rebels in parts of the northern city of Aleppo.

US state department spokesman Mark Toner said Mr Assad was “deluded” if he thought there was a military solution to the conflict.

More than 250,000 people have been killed and some 11 million displaced in almost five years of fighting in Syria.

 

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