Scepticism towards agreement between Aleppos opposition groups is strong, particularly over insisting that al-Qaida elements must be weeded out

Inside east Aleppo, talk of ways to bring a lasting peace were long ago discounted. On the eve of the latest bargain being carried out by Russia and the US to bring pacify to a five-year war, those trying to oust Bashar al-Assad in the opponent half of the city are now more sceptical than ever.

The pact, announced by Moscow and Washington late on Friday, aims to ease in a ceasefire, mainly by phasing out attacks by Russian and Syrian airplanes, which have pounded opponent regions for most of the past year, and allowing in desperately needed assist supplies.

While a potential objective to the bombings was welcomed by militants inside the city, mistrust has remained about the caveats particularly an insistence that al-Qaida-linked components be extricated from more mainstream rebels for much of the bargain to kick in.

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham[ the renamed jihadi group Jabhat al-Nusra] are among us, that is true, told Dawood Mahmudi, a senior rebel based in east Aleppo. They are here because no one else is. They have maintained the city open and have reopened it when it was besieged. Where were Russia and the US then? Ill tell you where, the US was nowhere, and Russia was bombing us. And now they say trust us.

Sergei
Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry announced the tentative ceasefire arrangement in Geneva. Photo: Barcroft Images

In Idlib province, to the north-west of Aleppo, where Jabhat Fateh al-Sham has a stronger presence than in Aleppo, there was also resistance to surrendering jihadi groups who had emerged from the chaos of the Syrian war as protectors of some areas. They are from here and they are us, said Abu Towfik, an elder in the town of Saraqeb, whose three brethren fight with the jihadi group. They would not be the strongest group if assist had come earlier.

In Idlib city, 37 people were killed in several raids, including an airstrike on the market place on Saturday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Russian planes were blamed by residents, but there was no independent verification of their participation. A further 30 people were killed in Aleppo province during air bombardments.

Areas of control in Syria

Trust among all participants in Syrias war has apparently never been lower. In Damascus, still a stronghold of the Syrian chairwoman, there was little faith on Saturday that rebel groups would honour elements of the deal to disavow extremism. A lawyer from the Mezze neighbourhood of the Syrian capital, who called himself Abu Kareem, said: They have been in our midst for the past three years. They are on our doorsteps, sending mortars and bombers at us. These are the so-called moderates.

Even among the major powers themselves, there was a palpable sense that the ceasefire would be difficult to implement. Much of it hinges on Moscows ability to rein in the Assad regime, and particularly to convince officials to allow aid to get to besieged areas. Syrian leaders have consistently used starvation sieges as weapons of war throughout the conflict, despite protests from the UN and western governments.

The methods have proved effective, with remaining opposition fighters and communities from the Damascus enclave of Darraya surrendering in late August, with many agreeing to be moved to Idlib. Earlier sieges in Homs and Zabadani had fulfilled similar ends.

New
New horizons? Rebel fighters stand in a injury building in Quneitra countryside, Syria. Photograph: Alaa Al-Faqir/ Reuters

Mitigating the humanitarian agony, which remains chronic across much of Syria, has been indicated by Syrian opposition officials and diplomats in Europe and the US as essential to the ceasefire. However, critics of the deal suggest it offers no viable track to a broader political solution and that the objectives of all international players remain mutually exclusive.

If it suffers in the working day that are consistent with the three-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts on Monday, Russia and the US have pledged to establish a control room in which bombing targets will be jointly agreed. It will also be used to prevent Syrian jets from assaulting areas that are part of the agreed truce.

By changing its name in July and severing overt links to al-Qaida, al-Nusra tried to reposition itself as a Syrian patriot group that might be accepted as a legitimate entity within the opposition. Those schemes were quickly dashed when Washington added the renamed group to its list of proscribed terror organisations. US officials continue to believe that some elements of it are employing the chaos of Syria to plan attacks in Europe and beyond.

The staunch posture against the jihadis is lost on some senior rebels. So, assuming[ the truce] does hold over the festival, how can anyone take them on their word to allow supplies into Aleppo? asked Mahmudi. We are blocked from both objectives. The only people that have managed to open these roads for us are Nusra and[ opposition group] Ahrar al-Sham. Now one of them is supposed to be our foe, and the other group were supposed to be sure about.

Bombing us indiscriminately, and with total impunity, has stimulated these people strong. Does no one understand that?

Russian tactics, since it began its full-scale involvement in support of Assad, have been to bomb opposition-held communities, while claiming to be attacking the Islamic State terror group. The US had previously accused Moscow of bombing rebel groups that it had supported in the war, paying little attention to Isis stances, to the east of Aleppo and spreading to the terror groups Syrian heartland of Raqqa.

A
A fighter from the Jaish al-Islam operates to avoid sniper flame, in the village of Tal al-Siwan area of the rebel-held stronghold of Douma. Photograph: Sameer Al-Doumy/ AFP/ Getty Images

Attacks on hospitals and medical clinics have been widespread over the past year. The Syrian Network for Human Rights on Saturday said that 59 medical centres had been bombed since the Russian intervention, which began on 30 September. At least 30 of the ten-strikes have taken place since earlier peace talks collapsed in Geneva in April.

Bassma Kodmani, a spokeswoman for the High Negotiations Committee the peak Syrian opponent political body said the truce would hold if it was enforced. She said Russia was the only guarantor of stopping attacks by Syrian jets and helicopters that have decimated much of the opposition-held north.

While carrying profound malaise at partnering with Russia to ease the war in Syria, one US official used to say Moscow now had a lot to gain by being ensure to be bringing the war to an objective. They have bombed the place into submission, while we have appeared the other way, he added, refusing to put his name to his views. They have brought demise and extermination, and now they are saying we can bring you life. They want this to work. Well see.

Other opposition figures carried mistrusts. We have doubts regarding the feasibility of such arrangements in its current form and the track record of Russia and the regime, said a spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham.

We also have some major concerns related to specific points that need clarification. The timing and structure of the deal as it seems now is biased towards Russias interests. There is complete lack of trust in the Russians, and the fact that the Assad air force will not be grounded from day one is a very negative signal.

Read more: www.theguardian.com