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Syria Rebels: Ceasefire “Void” If Government Violations Persist | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A man rides a bicycle near damaged buildings in the rebel held besieged city of Douma, in the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta, Syria December 30, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Syrian rebel groups have said on Saturday they will consider a ceasefire deal brokered by Russia and Turkey “null and void” if government forces and their allies continue to violate it.

Parts of Syria saw continued fighting Saturday, on the second day of the nationwide cease-fire intended to pave the way for peace talks between the government and the opposition.

Russia and Turkey brokered the ceasefire agreement in the hope of preparing the way for peace talks in Kazakhstan in the new year.

Activists reported pro-government forces were pressing on several fronts against two strategically-located opposition pockets around the capital, Damascus, while Russia’s military deployment to Syria reported twelve cease-fire violations it blamed on rebels Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said at least two civilians and five militants have been killed in battles over opposition-held Eastern Ghouta and Barada Valley regions around Damascus, since the truce came into effect Thursday at midnight.

“Continued violations by the regime and bombardment and attempts to attack areas under the control of the revolutionary factions will make the agreement null and void,” a statement signed by a number of rebel groups said.

The statement said government forces and their allies including Lebanese Hezbollah had been trying to press advances, particularly in an area northwest of Damascus in the rebel-held Wadi Barada valley.

Blasts from government shellfire were also heard in the southern provinces of Quneitra and Deraa, the Observatory said.

In their statement, the rebels said it appeared the government and the opposition had signed two different versions of the ceasefire deal, one of which was missing “a number of key and essential points that are non-negotiable”, but did not say what those were.

There has been confusion over which groups in the opposition are included in the ceasefire. ISIS, which has made enemies of all sides in the conflict, is not included.

The Syrian army said on Thursday the militant group formerly known as the Nusra Front was not part of the truce. However, several rebel officials said the group, which has been renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, was also included in the ceasefire deal.

Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has urged the United Nations to give its blessing to the fragile ceasefire, the third truce this year seeking to end nearly six years of war in Syria.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) to vote on a resolution to endorse the cease-fire and roadmap to peace beginning with a transitional government for the country.

The resolution also calls for the “rapid, safe and unhindered” access to deliver humanitarian aid throughout the country.

The developments signal the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough after nearly six years of conflict that has drawn in world powers, displaced half the Syrian population, and killed more than 400,000 people. The parties have defied previous peace initiatives.