Rebels say Syrian jets start second day of strikes in south

  • World
  • Tuesday, 13 Mar 2018

AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian jets resumed strikes on several rebel-held towns in southern Deraa province on Tuesday, rebels said, a day after Washington warned that such bombing would violate a U.S.-Russian "de-escalation zone".

Two rebel sources said jets bombed the towns of Hrak, Busr al Harir and a location in Laja, all places which were hit on Monday, the first air strikes since a U.S.-Russian agreement brokered last July on the de-escalation zone in southern Syria.

The U.S. State Department said on Monday it was concerned by the violence and called an "urgent meeting" in Jordan to ensure maintenance of the de-escalation zone.

"If (reports of the strikes are) true, this would be a clear violation of the (southwest) ceasefire by the Syrian regime that broadens the conflict," a State Department official said.

Several commanders from the Western-backed coalition of Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions in southern Syria said the strikes were meant to warn them against opening a front to relieve pressure on eastern Ghouta, facing a relentless bombing campaign by the Syrian army and its allies.

Several rebel sources had said some preparations were underway for such a military campaign as popular pressure in rebel-held areas mounts on the factions to attack the Syrian army, which has been sending reinforcements from the south to eastern Ghouta.

Worries are growing in Jordan and among Western powers that the Syrian army, backed by Moscow and Iranian-backed militias, will press on with a major assault to regain the south if it retakes eastern Ghouta, two senior Western diplomats said.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Catherine Evans)