The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 24th March 2017

Syria holds the line against terror

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

REACTIONARY Syrian terror groups, including the so-called “moderate” militias that the imperialists use to justify their less than covert attempts to overthrow the popular front government in Damascus, have closed ranks to launch concerted attacks on Syrian army positions in the Damascus countryside and Hama province with the Israeli air-force. But the Syrians say they downed one Israeli jet and hit a second after four planes breached Syrian airspace and attacked government troops near Palmyra last week. The Israelis admit to raiding Lebanese Hezbollah resistance camps in Syria but say that all their planes returned safely to base.

Suicide bombers brought terror back to Damascus in last week’s rebel offensive but the Syrian troops have held the line whilst continuing to advance along the road to the ISIS-held ‘capital’ of Raqqa.

Last week a blast rocked the resort area of Rabweh in the Syrian capital just an hour after a suicide bombing targeted the Justice Palace in central Damascus. The blast in Rabweh was carried out by a suicide bomber, who detonated his explosive belt inside one of the restaurants in that area. The bombing came an hour after a suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Justice Palace, or Courthouse, in central Damascus, killing 30 people and wounding 45 others.

The blast was the latest in a series of bombings that have sparked recently, following a long time of lull. Earlier in the month the Al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front carried out a suicide bombing in Damascus, killing 74 people, including Iraqi Shia visitors, who were in Damascus on a pilgrim visit.

The rebels have now evacuated their last bastion in the city of Homs under a local ceasefire agreement with the Syrian authorities. The gunmen, with their personal weapons, started leaving the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Wair, in central Homs city, on 18th March.

Meanwhile Russia has consolidated its peace-keeping role in the country by setting up a military base in the Afrin canton area controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the Kurdish autonomous zone in north-western Syria. Russian troops and armour have already moved in along with military advisors to train the Kurdish militia and increase cooperation with the YPG in combating terrorism. Syrian troops have already established a presence in part of the Kurdish autonomous area in the north east of the country to restore national sovereignty and also to deter any further expansion of the illegal Turkish ‘buffer zone’ in northern Syria.

A nationwide Syrian ceasefire was agreed on 30th December 2016, with Russia and Turkey as its guarantors. The ceasefire excludes the ISIS and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups, as well as other organisations considered terrorist by the United Nations Security Council.

The United Nations Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE) has confirmed that all the invitees who participated in last month’s peace talks seeking to broker a political end to the six-year Syrian conflict will attend the next round of negotiations, slated to start later this week.

“The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, looks forward to the resumption of intra-Syrian talks in Geneva on March 23,” OSE said in a statement.

“He notes that all invitees who had already attended the previous round of talks in February 2017 have confirmed their participation,” it added.

De Mistura, who is mediating talks between various delegations, is scheduled to travel to Moscow and Ankara in the coming days to carry out further consultations with relevant sides.

The last round of intra-Syrian talks ended earlier this month with the envoy lauding the progress made in nine days of bilateral negotiations which yielded an agenda for future rounds of discussions.