Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Syria war seethes despite ceasefire

Published:Friday | February 10, 2017 | 2:00 AM
Fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Fatah al-Sham Front, preparing to attack government checkpoints in the Homs province, Syria.

BEIRUT (AP):

Syria's fronts are on fire despite a ceasefire reached in December between the rebels and the government.Though the two sides sat face-to-face in the Kazakh capital of Astana a month later, the government has pressed offensives against rebels around the capital, Damascus, and recently escalated its air campaigns in Homs and Idlib.

The war's January toll some 2,000 dead, about a third of them civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group is the lowest it has been in four years.

But that may be because the government wrapped up operations for Aleppo, the country's largest city, last year.

Rebels, for their part, struck at government positions in central Hama province, though they have been mostly occupied by infighting in Idlib that calls into question the direction of their insurrection. In the midst of all this, the Islamic State group has renewed its crusade for the remote eastern city of Deir el-Zour, while holding on to the culturally cherished site of Palmyra.

 

CLOSING IN ON EXTREMISTS

 

At the same time, Turkish troops and the rival Syrian military are both closing in on the IS-held town of al-Bab, as US-backed Kurdish forces bear down on

the extremist's self-declared capital, Raqqa.

Though small and out of the way, al-Bab is shaping up to be the weather vane for the rest of the conflict as the UN plans to convene Syria peace talks in Geneva on February 20.

The government and rebels have converged on the town, with clashes breaking out between the two sides for the first time yesterday.