Russia says militants in Syria are exploiting a ceasefire currently underway in the Arab country to launch a wide-scale attack in the city of Aleppo.
“During the sixth day of the ceasefire… only the Syrian government troops have been actually observing the moratorium on combat operations,” said Major General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, on Sunday.
“Militants are using the ceasefire to lick wounds, recuperate and prepare for the resumption of combat operations,” he said.
The militants are “pulling manpower and weapons in the areas they control, both during the day and at night,” Konashenkov said, adding that they are exploiting Damascus’ commitment to the ceasefire deal and the fact that government troops are not “opening retaliatory fire” at them.
The Russian major general also denounced Washington’s passive stance on the militants’ violations of the ceasefire agreement, which started on September 12 under a deal between Russia and the United States.
He criticized the US for failing to separate the so-called “moderate” opposition from the terrorists as was agreed under the terms of the Syrian truce.
“After a week of ceasefire, it has become clear that the US side has neither influence nor even contacts with the ‘moderate oppositionists’ acting on the ground in Syria,” Konashenkov said.
He said that the militants had committed 50 violations of the truce in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Latakia, Homs and Daraa during the previous 24 hours.
Russia and the US agreed on the ceasefire deal in Syria on September 9 after intensive talks in the Swiss city of Geneva. The deal was agreed to last seven days and calls for increased humanitarian aid for those trapped inside the northwestern city of Aleppo.
Meanwhile, Bouthaina Shaaban, a senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, echoed the Russian official’s remarks, saying “Unfortunately, the terrorists regroup and rearm with every truce and with every cancellation of hostilities. And that’s because the US is hesitant to strike at the terrorists in Syria.”
She also rejected claims that a recent US attack that claimed the lives of scores of Syrian soldiers was a “mistake.”
“It would be very strange if a country like the US, which is supposed to be a No.1 in military power in the world, makes such a mistake,” she said.
On Saturday, a US-led coalition attack in Syria’s eastern province of Dayr al-Zawr killed 62 Syrian soldiers and injured over 100 others. The coalition has been pounding Syria since September 2014 without authorization from Damascus or the United Nations (UN). It purports to be operating in Syria to contain Daesh.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. Over the past few months, the militants active in the Arab country have suffered major setbacks as the Syrian army has managed to liberate several areas.
According to an estimate by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, more than 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria. The UN does not provide official casualty figures for Syria anymore.