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U.S.-Russian Syria peace deal raises rebel doubts as fighting rages

The United States and Russia hailed a breakthrough deal early on Saturday to put Syria's peace process back on track, though the war-torn country's rebels said they doubted it would hold and violence raged on in Aleppo.
U.S.-Russian Syria peace deal raises rebel doubts as fighting rages

The agreement reached by the powers backing opposing sides in the conflict promised a nationwide truce effective from sundown on Monday, improved humanitarian aid access and joint military targeting of banned Islamist groups, Reuters reports.

But only hours after it was announced, Syria’s army attacked rebel-held areas in the northern city of Aleppo, both sides said, as the military pushed to maximize gains before the ceasefire deadline.

Insurgents said they were planning a counter-offensive.

“The fighting is flaring on all the fronts of southern Aleppo but the clashes in Amiryah are the heaviest,” Captain Abdul Salam Abdul Razak, the military spokesman of the rebel Nour al-Din al Zinki Brigades said.

Syria’s 5-year civil war has killed thousands in Aleppo, the main focus of clashes between insurgents, including Western-backed rebels, and pro-government forces backed by Russia and Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on all sides to respect the deal, which was reached after marathon talks in Geneva and several failed attempts to hammer out the details in recent weeks.

“This requires halting all attacks, including aerial bombardments, and any attempts to gain additional territory at the expense of the parties to the cessation. It requires unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all of the besieged and hard-to-reach areas including Aleppo,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that despite continuing mistrust, the two sides had developed five documents that would enable coordination of the fight against terrorism and a revival of Syria’s failed truce in an enhanced form.

Both sides agreed not to release the documents publicly.

“This all creates the necessary conditions for resumption of the political process, which has been stalling for a long time,” Lavrov told a news conference.