October 2016International NewsMiddle East

Violence Recurs in Syria as Ceasefire Crumbles

By Gabrielle Hunt
Staff Writer

Syria’s most recent ceasefire continues to flounder as heavy airstrikes continue. The ceasefire, brokered jointly by the United States and Russia on September 12, lasted a week before an aid convoy was struck west of Aleppo.

By September 25, the Assad regime had launched an “all-out” air and ground offensive against Aleppo, and reportedly fired over 150 airstrikes in 72 hours that killed 139 people. In the offensive, the regime reportedly hit four bases used by White Helmet volunteers, the first responders who arrive at bombed areas.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power released a statement pointedly calling out Russia in light of the air campaign, calling eastern Aleppo “apocalyptic,” and calling upon the U.N. Security Council to unanimously condemn Russia for its uncontested involvement.

The U.S. considers Russia responsible for the convoy attack because of the Syrian rebels’ lack of air force. Regardless of whether Russia was actually behind attack, the U.S. believes it is accountable because of its obligation to limit Syrian airstrikes under the ceasefire.

Other members of the international community have since publicly condemned the conflict and Russia’s involvement. A joint statement on Syria by the Foreign Ministers of France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the High Representative of the European Union indicated growing impatience with Russia’s “continued unwillingness” to honor commitments for peace in Syria.

French President Francois Hollande suggested that Russian officials could face “war crime charges” over involvement with the bombardment of Aleppo. U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed Russia risks becoming an international “pariah” through its continued support of the Assad regime. However, Russia continues to deny involvement with the attacks.

Russia and the U.S. have since failed to agree on how to mend the ceasefire. Recent reports indicate that on October 11, 25 people died in were killed in what activists consider to be the most severe bombardment in days. The Syrian Civil Defense has since put the death toll at 41.

As of October 12, Russia has ratified a permanent deployment of its air group in Syria. Under the agreement, Russian military personnel will not undergo border checks when entering Syria. This deployment could further implicate Russia’s involvement in the airstrikes.

Weaponized surveillance drones are allegedly coming into use by militant groups like Hezbollah and the Islamic State, which potentially complicates the Syrian civil war. Though drone strikes would be drastically different—and likely not as catastrophic as the airstrikes that have plagued Russia for years—they will “still scare people,” according to the Seattle Times. Weaponized drones, though clumsy, are what people have been afraid of for “years.”  

Peter Singer, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, commented that though the new drone capacity of militant groups will not change the balance of power in the region, it is still important to note the terrorist groups’ drone capabilities would be unprecedented.

Militant-operated weaponized drones also may complicate the international community’s ability to hold a specific group or actor accountable for violence in Syria, potentially aggravating the issue of Russia’s continued denial of involvement in attacks.

As of now, there have been no advancements in the cease-fire or other plans in place to halt the bombings on Syrian civilians.

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