By Felipe Bueno, International News Writer
Russia has accused the US of breaking a ceasefire on September 15, with an airstrike that allegedly hit pro-government forces. This US-Russia -brokered ceasefire was intended to be the first step in bringing peace to the conflict. The United States and Russia have begun a heated debate over who bears responsibility for a recent airstrike against Syrian forces.
The Guardian reported that the Russian defense minister, Sergey Shoygu, claimed US–led coalition planes had killed 62 Syrian soldiers, wounded 100 more, and allowed Islamic State militants to gain an advantage through the strike.
He went on to raise the possibility that the US was acting in support of ISIS. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that about 80 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strike.
As reported by CNN, the Pentagon said the strike was accidental and US officials expressed regret.
In addition to the casualties, the airstrike could have much larger holistic repercussions on the Syrian civil war.
The brokering of an agreement by the United States and Russia, in any matter, is a milestone, especially in one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the recent decade. According to Al-Jazeera, the agreement was a weeklong ceasefire that began on Monday September 12, coinciding with the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha, agreed to by both the Syrian government and the opposing rebel groups. The truce, however, did not apply to the so called ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS), or Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the group formerly known as al-Nusra Front, that changed its name after cutting ties with al-Qaeda in July.
Before the week had come to an end, reports arose that the United States had broken the ceasefire by carrying out an airstrike against Syrian ground forces in the city of Deir Ezzor.
Reportedly, American forces had been monitoring the area and thought the Syrian troops belonged to ISIS. Shortly after commencing the attack, Russian intelligence contacted the American troops, telling them to stop their attack, with the US claiming it had stopped immediately.
Russia, who is in support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, has forcefully condemned the United States for the attack.
Assad released a statement on Syria’s state media outlet, SANA, saying that, “whenever the Syrian state achieves tangible progress either on the ground or in national reconciliations, the states that are hostile to Syria increase their support for terrorist organizations. The most recent example of this is the flagrant US aggression on a Syrian Arab Army position in Deir Ezzor for the benefit of ISIS.”
Moscow called an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting behind closed doors in order to discuss the attack.
The 15 -member council met on Saturday evening, with full details still not being released to the public.
An important aspect of this attack is its timing. As part of the ceasefire, Washington and Moscow had agreed to establish a Joint Implementation Center to coordinate further strikes against terrorist groups.
This prospect made some pentagon officials uncomfortable as it would mean sharing US military information with Russia.
The attack on Syrian troops took place two days before the sharing of intelligence would theoretically have started, leading Russian authorities questioning whether the timing had any ulterior motives.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 27th print edition.
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