Rebel factions in Syria have said they were prepared to honour the ceasefire agreement due to take effect on Monday evening, despite deep reservations about its terms.
The groups wrote to the US on Sunday saying they would “cooperate positively” with the ceasefire. They said the agreement neglected besieged areas and called for aid to be taken to all those places without exception.
They also expressed concern at clauses in the agreement indicating that Syrian government jets would not be barred from flying until up to nine days after the ceasefire had taken effect.
The arrangement divided rebel factions, who have depended on the might of an Al Qaeda-linked faction – Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, renamed from Jabhat Al Nusra after it said it was severing ties with Al Qaeda – to battle government forces around Aleppo.
Earlier, a leader from the powerful Ahrar Al Sham militia announced that the rebels would observe the ceasefire, but would not fully split with Jabhat Al Sham.
“The Islamist factions and Jabhat Fatah Al Sham will abide by the ceasefire without publicly declaring it,” he said. “They will announce they are opposed to the US-Russian agreement.
Other factions less closely tied to Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, including those backed by Turkish ground forces in the northern frontier area, would publicly commit to the agreement, the leader said.
“The free Syrian factions under the Euphrates Shield banner will announce their commitment to the agreement, of course,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, Ahrar Al Sham said it would not respect the ceasefire, which is meant to ease the country’s humanitarian crisis and pave the way to peace talks.
The group “is not bound by the truce and won’t abide by it”, because that would benefit the forces of president Bashar Al Assad, spokesman Abu Yousef Al Muhajir said.
Syrian state news agency Sana on Saturday reported that the government had approved the agreement.
And the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi yesterday said Tehran also backed the deal.
Hizbollah, which has intervened on behalf of Mr Al Assad, gave its support for the ceasefire late on Saturday.
To get aid into the battered second city of Aleppo, where rebel-held areas are under siege by regime forces, a demilitarised zone is to be established around the Castello Road into the city.
Rebels have been fighting alongside Jabhat Fatah Al Sham around Aleppo as they try to break a government siege that was reimposed this month.
It is not clear how the Syrian government will distinguish between the two, and whether it can strike at the Fatah Al Sham without hitting other rebels.
Six civilians were killed in air strikes on Aleppo yesterday, it said.
Meanwhile, the death toll from air strikes launched on rebel-held Idlib city on Saturday rose to at least 62 people, including 13 women and 13 children, the Britain-based Observatory said.