Last week, before the beginning of the ceasefire agreement, Conflict News predicted that the deal would almost certainly fail. Confirming these suspicious, only a few days into the so-called ‘cessation of hostilities’ in Syria, it appears fighting is once again ramping up.
While the first day of the ceasefire saw a significant reduction in the level of violence within the country – helped in part by a Russian bombing pause – violence is again on the increase. Videos from activists on the ground have shown that both regime helicopters as well as Russian jets have resumed their bombing of rebel positions and civilian areas in the north of Syria.
As well, reports by both pro and anti-government activists indicate that regime troops have now launched a ground offensive in northern Syria’s Latakia province. There troops have attempted to take a strategic hill from rebel groups backed by Russian air strikes.
For their part, several rebel groups have uploaded videos of their fighters attacking regime positions. Such instances included the use of Grad rockets in Idlib province and mortars in Hama province. So far however these breaches of the ceasefire are on a smaller scale than the highly destructive Russian air campaign.
Beyond the regime and opposed rebel forces, there is also evidence that the ceasefire is breaking down as well between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and FSA rebels in the Sheikh Maksoud district of Aleppo. It is unclear at this stage who instigated these clashes.
Despite the tragic consequences for civilians living within Syria, the failure of what the US refers to as the ‘hudna’ (an Arabic word for truce) was sadly predictable. A combination of the incredibly unclear nature of the truce itself, as well as which groups were covered and which were excluded, made it flawed from the beginning. Furthermore, maps allegedly from the Russian Ministry of Defense showed vast areas of the country not covered by the agreement, meaning any reduction would be piecemeal at best.
Given the developments of the past few days, the coming weeks will likely see a return to full-scale fighting. As time passes, and airstrikes continue, more and more rebel groups will begin firing back at regime forces, which will in turn be used as a justification for more retaliatory strikes, resulting in an eventual complete collapse in the ceasefire. How major powers then react to this development will set the course of the wider conflict for months and year to come.