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Russia Attacks Moderate Factions, Threatens ‘Astana’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Boys play on a wrecked car in the rebel held besieged Douma neighborhood of Damascus, Syria April 1, 2017. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Beirut- Russian warplanes hit on Sunday a position controlled by the moderate opposition in northwestern Syria, killing one fighter and injuring several people.

Two rebel sources told Reuters on Sunday that jets believed to be Russian hit Babeska, a village in Idlib province that has become a haven for several moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups, mainly Jaish al Islam, an insurgent group that controls the last major rebel stronghold on the doorstep of the Syrian capital.

The opposition described the attack on Sunday as “negatively” reflecting on the fourth round of the intra-Syrian talks.

Colonel Fateh Hassoun, a member of the opposition negotiating team in Geneva, said representatives from factions participating in the “Astana” and “Geneva” talks are expected to meet in the coming days to decide whether to attend the next round of talks in the Kazakh capital, expected in May.

“The airstrikes will affect any future negotiations in which Moscow plays a role,” Wael Alwan, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Failaq al Rahman, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Meanwhile, the population swap deal conducted between Syrian opposition factions and each of Iran and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” created a dispute between head of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Riad Hijab and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The deal stipulates the complete evacuation of the two Shi’ite-majority towns of Fua and Kefreya in the Idlib countryside, northwestern Syria, in return for the safe passage of a similar number of civilians, fighters and their families from Madaya and Zabadani in the western Damascus suburbs to northern Syrian areas.

While the Syrian Observatory announced that Hijab had taken part in the deal, head of the HNC denied the reports, saying the deal was “against the Syrian people and a violation of international humanitarian law.”

Separately, as the countdown for the Raqqa battle began, famine has threatened the city, from where civilians are seeking to escape.

Abu Mohammad al-Raqqawi, activist in the “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” said the mass movement of people from the city continues, particularly in the direction of Ain Issa, in the north countryside.