U.N. Sets Peace Talks After Rebel Commander’s Death
The United Nations has schedule peace talks between the Syrian opposition and the beleaguered Assad government for January 25, AFP reports.
The date for the first round of negotiations between opposing sides in Syria’s civil war was released just hours after the killing of a powerful rebel leader who had backed the negotiations.
Zahran Alloush, commander of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), was killed on Friday when Syrian government planes targeted a “secret meeting” of opposition commanders, according to a senior member of Alloush’s faction.
Jaish al-Islam is the main opposition group in Eastern Ghouta, a well known rebel-held area east of Damascus.
The Syrian government claimed responsibility for Alloush’s death, but analysts fear the killing of the rebel commander will further complicate an already fragile peace process.
Jaish al-Islam was one of the main hardline Islamist opposition parties involved in the Riyadh opposition conference earlier this month.
“Those negotiations needed hardliners like Zahran Alloush to be involved for their credibility,” according to Aron Lund, editor of the Carnegie Endowment’s Syria in Crisis website.
Alloush, Lund said, was “a rare successful centralizer in the Syrian rebel movement.” Without his involvement, the cohesion created in Riyadh could easily “unravel.”
Evacuation of ISIS Fighters From Damascus On Hold
A U.N.-sponsored plan to evacuate more than 2,000 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters and other militants from Damascus has been put on hold, just one day after a rebel commander was killed, Reuters reports.
Although busses were staged and ready to transport militants to Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS in northern Syria, the move was called off after Zahran Alloush, commander of Jaish al-Islam, was killed on Friday.
The busses had been set to pass through Eastern Ghouta, a territory predominantly controlled by Alloush.
The evacuation deal was the first arrangement of its kind between the Syrian government and ISIS.
Elaborate Evacuation Begins in Three Syrian Towns
Hundreds of fighters and civilians began evacuating three flashpoint Syrian towns on Monday as part of a deal backed by the U.N., AFP reports.
While Bashar al-Assad’s government has consented to ceasefire deals in the past, Monday’s evacuation was the elaborate deal of the nearly five-year-long civil war.
At least 450 fighters and civilians began leaving the towns of Zabadani, Fuaa and Kafraya on Monday, as part of a six-month truce established in September.
Approximately 120 militants and civilians crossed from Zabadani, the last rebel-held area along the Syrian-Lebanese border, into Lebanese territory on Monday. They are set to fly from Beirut to Turkey, and then travel back into opposition-held areas in Syria, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Some 350 people, including civilians, crossed from the government-held, mainly Shiite villages of Fuaa and Kafraya into to Turkey, and are set to fly into Beirut before traveling overland to Damascus.
The evacuation marks the first time that neighboring countries were involved in such a deal.
- The Washington Post: Migrants Fleeing Syria Encounter a Life of Detention in Turkey
- The Wall Street Journal: Kurdish Fighters Battling for Control of Syria Dam
- The National: Syria Rebel Group Will Survive Leader’s Death
- Reuters: U.S. Sees Bearable Costs, Key Goals met for Russia in Syria So Far
- The New York Times: Syrian Family’s Tragedy Goes Beyond Iconic Image of Boy on Beach
Top image: A Lebanese army soldier crosses a street past Hezbollah supporters riding their motorcycles and shouting slogans against a convoy carrying Syrian opposition fighters upon their arrival, at the Rafik Hariri International Airport, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015. More than 100 insurgents and their families crossed from Syria into Lebanon in buses and ambulances on Monday as part of a U.N.-backed truce reached with the government that saw a separate group of Syrians from two insurgent-besieged Shiite villages crossed into Turkey. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)