The Syrian ceasefire, agreed to with great fanfare last week and hailed as the beginning of the end of the civil war, is falling apart as dozens of violations by both sides have been reported.
The linchpin of the deal was the free flow of aid to the beleaguered city of Aleppo. But the Syrian army is still blocking aid from reaching the city and other rebel-held areas, desperate for food and medicine, that are also being denied assistance.
Both sides say the ceasefire is about ready to collapse.
“The truce, as we have warned, and we told the (U.S.) State Department – will not hold out,” the rebel official said, pointing to the continued presence of a U.N. aid convoy at the Turkish border awaiting permission to travel to Aleppo.
“It is not possible for the party (Russia) that wages war against a people to strive to achieve a truce, as it is also not possible for it to be a sponsor of this agreement while it bombs night and day, while on the other side, the other party – America – has the role of spectator,” he said.
Moscow has itself accused rebels of breaking the truce and said Washington needs to do more to make them abide by its terms, including separating from the jihadist Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which only broke formal allegiance to al Qaeda in July.
The five-year-old civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s population, drawing in global and regional powers, causing an international refugee crisis and inspiring jihadist attacks around the world.
Both sides have accused the other of being responsible for aid deliveries being stuck far from Aleppo, where army and rebel forces were supposed to pull back from the Castello Road which leads into besieged, insurgent-held eastern districts.
Russia on Friday said the Syrian army had initially withdrawn but returned to its positions after being fired on by rebels, who in turn say they saw no sign of government forces ever leaving their positions.
“There is no change,” said Zakariya Malahifji, an official for a rebel group in Aleppo on Saturday, asked whether there had been any move by the army to withdraw from positions along the road.
Syria’s government said it was doing all that was necessary for the arrival of aid to those in need it in all parts of the country, particularly to eastern Aleppo.
Two convoys of aid for Aleppo have been waiting at the Turkish border for days. The U.N. has said both sides in the war are to blame for the delay of aid to Aleppo, where neither has yet withdrawn from the Castello Road into the city.
But senior U.N. officials have accused the government of not providing letters to allow convoys to reach besieged areas in Syria. The government said the road was being fired on by rebels, which they deny, so it could not give convoys a guarantee of safety.
For a ceasefire to work, both sides must want it. In this case, neither side really wants to stop fighting. President Assad and Vladimir Putin believe they are winning and that a military solution is in sight.The rebels have paid too high a price to allow the feckless U.S. to hand Assad an easy win. They are going to fight tooth and nail to hang onto their gains.
Both sides will continue to pretend that the ceasefire is still valid, but that fiction won’t last for long. And the rebels apparently never had any illusions that they could trust President Assad or Russia.