Two days after the supposed Syria "ceasefire" took effect, Assad regime and Russian warplanes carried out multiple air-strikes on rebel-held towns in Aleppo, Hama, Idlib and Damascus governorates, leaving some 20 dead and many more wounded. (Orient Net, Sept. 12) Pro-Moscow news sources (Sputnik, Al Masdar News) boast that the regime has "liberated" territory in these areas from "jihadists"—but without actually naming which "jihadist" factions were engaged, leaving open the possibility that Moscow and Assad are continuing their propaganda trick of conflating all rebel forces with ISIS. Especially hyped by these sources is the regime's taking of Handarat, Aleppo, a Palestinian refugee camp whose residents seem to be factionalized and drawn into the fighting on both sides.
The opposition umbrella Syrian National Coalition has announced that the Free Syrian Army and allied revolutionary factions will "deal positively" with the ceasefire agreement, while adding that they have 'the right to defend the people and the revolution if the regime and its allies and Iranian militias carry out any air or land assault or any attempt to occupy territory or attempt to impose a siege or forcibly displace residents. This will be considered a hostile act contradicting the agreement and the truce requiring a response according to what is decided by the military leadership of the FSA." (Syrian Observer, Sept. 14)
The Islamist dissident rebel group Ahrar al-Sham issued a statement saying it will not respect the ceasefire. Commander Ali al-Omar said: "We see [the ceasefire deal] as not achieving the least of the aims of our revolutionary people, and forfeiting all their sacrifices and gains… [T]he agreement contributes to entrenching the regime and encircling the revolution militarily… It exceeds all previous deals despite their evil." (Syrian Observer, Sept. 13)
Unfortunately, he has a point. More than a million Syrians remain under siege even as the "ceasefire" comes into force, according to a report released by monitoring group Siege Watch. (MEE, Sept. 13) The Assad regime is responsible for over 90% percent of the sieges in Syria. Despite UN Security resolutions demanding that aid be delivered "across conflict-lines," the UN has basically capitulated to the regime's strategy of starvation by only entering areas where it is permitted. UN data indicate that around 96% of aid goes to regime-held areas while only 4% goes to opposition areas. So virtually all deaths from starvation in Syria have happened in opposition-held areas. (MEE, Sept. 13)
And as in the recent cases of Moadamiyeh and Daraya, the regime is using such pressure to secure deals for the surrender and evacuation of rebel strongholds. The forced evacuation of the (mostly Sunni) populace from these towns has led to charges of sectarian cleansing by the regime. "The Syrian regime, along with its Russian and Iranian allies, is relentlessly pursuing a malicious plan to orchestrate extensive demographic shifts across Syria," said Riyad Hijab, a leader of the opposition's main political body, the High Negotiations Committee. "These changes will undermine the unity and integrity of Syrian territories and Syria’s demographic structure… paving the way for ethnic and political cleansing on an unprecedented scale." (WSJ, Sept. 13)
So the regime's ongoing aerial terror has not yet ceased despite the "ceasefire"—and we are yet to see any evidence that what now amounts to a genocide being carried out by the regime and its Russian partners will even be abated…
More charges of sectarian cleansing in Syria
The Syrian Observer reported Sept. 7 that evacuated Daraya and Moadamiya are being repopulated by followers of the Iraqi Shi'ite militia Harakat al-Nujaba, who have been invited to relocate their families from southern Iraq to effect "demographic change" in regime-controlled Syria. The Harakat al-Nujaba movement is said to be led by Akram al-Kaabi, who is closely aligned with the Iranian leadership.
Assad confiscates properties of absentees through legislation
Syrian lawyer and rights activist Michel Shammas said that Decree 10 for the year 2018, which was issued by the Syrian regime's President Bashar al-Assad, "opened the door wide for demographic change and legitimizing the confiscation of the properties of millions of displaced and expelled people." (Syrian Observer, April 5)