Syria truce fails to hold despite talks

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BEIRUT // Shelling resumed on Saturday in two government-held villages in northwestern Syria and a rebel town near Damascus, state media and a monitor said, as a ceasefire for the areas collapsed.

The violence came despite talks about extending the truce that began on Wednesday morning and aimed at reaching a final deal to stop fighting.

State television said a child and her father had been killed and 12 others wounded in “terrorist shelling” on the regime-held villages of Foua and Kfarya in Idlib province.

“Since this morning, at least 200 rockets have been fired at the Shiite villages of Foua and Kfarya,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor

Government forces and allies were meanwhile shelling rebel positions in opposition-held Zabadani, Mr Abdel Rahman said.

In Foua, a resident confirmed the bombardment.

“Today we’ve been hearing the sound of explosions since dawn,” the resident said. “The truce failed and the attacks have resumed.”

The truce agreement between rebel groups and pro-regime factions, including Hizbollah, came into effect on Wednesday morning.

Before its expiry on Saturday morning, intensive negotiations had been underway for an extension of the ceasefire and a full deal.

The talks centred on the withdrawal of rebels from Zabadani and the evacuation of civilians from Foua and Kfarya, which are the last two government-held villages in Idlib province.

The negotiations reportedly stumbled over an opposition insistence that thousands of prisoners be released from government jails, according to Mr Abdel Rahman.

Negotiations were continuing despite the ceasefire faltering.

“The talks are ongoing, but there are breaches in the ceasefire,” he said, citing sources close to the talks.

“It’s not clear if the breaches are attempts by the parties to improve the conditions of the deal or come from those who want to thwart the negotiations,” he said.

Elsewhere, state television said at least three people were killed and 14 injured by rebel rocket fire on a school in a government-held district of Aleppo city.

The Observatory put the toll at two dead, saying rebels had fired a barrage of several dozen rockets at multiple parts of the government-held west of the city.

* Agence France-Presse