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Syria conflict: Russia 'steps up air strikes' ahead of truce

February 26, 2016 5:36 pm

Russian jets are reported to have intensified attacks on Syrian rebel positions, hours before a cessation of hostilities is due to come into force.

Russia said it was continuing to bomb “terrorists” in parts of Syria.

Meanwhile, almost 100 rebel factions have agreed to respect the truce, the main Syrian opposition group has said.

The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said Free Syrian Army factions and the armed opposition had signed up to the truce from midnight (22:00 GMT).

The temporary “cessation of hostilities” involves government and rebel forces – but not the so-called Islamic State (IS) group and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. On Friday, Nusra Front urged its supporters to intensify attacks against President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

Warring parties in Syria were meant to make their intentions known by midday Friday ahead of the pause in fighting.

Announcing the intentions of rebel factions, the HNC said the Syrian government and its allies must not use the “proposed text to continue the hostile operations against the opposition factions under the excuse of fighting terrorism”.

The stage is set for the potential implementation of some kind of a ceasefire in Syria.

The Syrian government, the Russians, the US and its allies, along with just under 100 rebel groups, all appear willing to come on board.

But if it goes into effect at all, this “cessation of hostilities” – some prefer to call it a temporary truce – is going to be incomplete, partial, and fundamentally fragile.