Moscow/Beirut, 10 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – A ceasefire for Syria’s largely rebel-held Idlib region near the Turkish border has come into effect, the Russian military announced late Thursday.
The ceasefire is in accordance with agreements with Turkey, the military said in a statement carried by Russian state media.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had expressed support for the ceasefire as they met in Istanbul earlier this week.
Idlib, in north-western Syria, is the last rebel stronghold in the country’s war-torn country.
Syrian government forces with Russian support began an offensive in the region last year, provoking humanitarian concerns at the United Nations.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said despite the ceasefire, shelling and airstrikes by government forces were monitored in Idlib’s town of Maaret al-Nouman.
“This ceasefire is shaky and is not serious,” the observatory head Rami Abdel-Rahman told dpa on Friday.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned of massive displacement resulting from heavy shelling and aerial bombardment in Idlib.
“With more than a million displaced people already in the area, the lack of shelter and near-total reliance on assistance are critical issues,” Cristian Reynders, an MSF project coordinator for northern Idlib, said in a statement.
“Sometimes there is no space available for newly arrived families in official camps, and in other camps, people are asked to bring their own tent or shelter,” he added.
The northern part of Idlib near the Turkish border is already hosting around 1.5 million people, and according to the United Nations, more than 300,000 more people have fled their homes since December, mostly from southern Idlib.
Elsewhere in Syria, at least eight people were killed in airstrikes by unidentified aircraft targeting a pro-Iran militia near the Iraqi border, the observatory reported on Friday.
The watchdog added that the overnight strikes targeted arms depots and military vehicles belonging to the Iranian-allied Iraqi militia, the Popular Mobilization Forces, in the border area of al-Bu Kamal in eastern Syria.
The fatalities were non-Syria militiamen, according to the Britain-based monitor.
So far, there has been no word from the Syrian or Iraqi authorities.
Pro-Iranian Lebanese television al-Mayadeen, citing an unnamed security source in the area, said Israeli warplanes had carried out the strikes.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said: “We are not commenting on reports in foreign media.”
The reported attack comes amid regional tensions between Iran and the United States.
Israel has in the past few months carried out similar attacks on pro-Iranian military facilities in war-torn Syria.
Iran and allied militias in both Iraq and Lebanon are the main supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.