September 01, 2019

Ceasefire in Syria at risk of collapse after US airstrike
The tentative ceasefire in northwestern ceasefire in Syria, the second in a month, threatened to unravel on Sunday after the US launched an airstrike targeting al-Qaeda figures near the city of Idlib.  At least 40 people were killed after a missile struck a meeting of al-Qaeda leaders at a base near Idlib on Saturday, just hours after a Russia-brokered ceasefire ended months of bombardment of Syria’s last significant anti-regime holdout. A spokesman for US Central Command said: “This operation targeted Al-Qaeda in Syria leaders responsible for attacks targeting US citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” They added that the facility’s removal will “further degrade their ability to conduct further attacks and destabilise the region.” “Northwest Syria remains a safe haven where AQ-S [Al-Qaeda in Syria] leaders actively coordinate terrorist activities throughout the region and in the West,” it said. But Russia, one of the key power brokers in Syria, accused the US of “endangering” a hard-won ceasefire scarcely a day old. Citing the Russian defence ministry, TASS news agency said the US had not warned Russia or Turkey of the strikes. Idlib is the last bastion for Syria’s armed resistance, and over recent years, those who could not be bought in surrender deals, or those whom the Assad government has no interest in allowing into government-controlled areas, have been corralled into Syria’s northwest corner. Members of al-Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, their allies and other anti-government groups, along with civilians including women and children, are among those slowly being swept north. Whether al-Qaeda or other groups retaliate to the strike will determine the strike's longevity, and the length of respite granted to Idlib's 3 million inhabitants.  The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of sources on the ground, says more than 950 civilians have been killed in Idlib since the end of April. The UN says more than 400,000 people have fled, but activists say the actual number of people on the move is far higher, but few have anywhere left to go.
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