Syria’s Nusra Front Breaks Away From Al-Qaeda

Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, SyriaThe Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra, otherwise called Nusra Front says it has split from the al-Qaeda group, spurring suggestions it might be trying to join the Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

In a video message posted online, the Leader of the jihadist group, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, said that the group would be known by its new name, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham which means ‘front for the conquest of Syria’.

Al-Julani explained that the purpose of the move was to eliminate the ploy used by powers.

Analysts say the Nusra Front decided to re-brand itself after the US and Russia stepped up military efforts against its activities.

Last week, US Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, agreed to take what they called ‘concrete steps’, to tackle jihadist groups like the Nusra Front and the IS.

Both have been listed as terrorist organisations.

Syria Truce Violation To Be Probed

SyriaThe US Secretary Of State, John Kerry, has vowed to investigate all alleged violations of the partial truce in Syria.

“We are digging in through the process we set up to find out if in fact a violation did take place or was it in fact a legitimate engagement against Nusra only or Daesh only,” Kerry said in a news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Kerry said that while there were reports of violations, the vast majority in Syria had seen a decrease in violence.

“So we call on all the parties not to be looking for a way to get out from under the responsibility of the cessation of hostilities, but rather to help the process to hold itself accountable,” Kerry added.

He says the US and Russia are working on a mechanism to ensure any airstrike solely targets so-called Islamic State (IS) or al-Qaeda-linked Nusra front.

Mr Kerry however says they have agreed not to debate alleged violations in public.

He added that he was concerned by reports that the Syrian government was creating obstacles for the delivery of humanitarian aid and hoped it would stop its officials and troops from taking medicines or other supplies from the shipments.

In the meantime, aid convoys have begun reaching besieged areas of Syria as the cessation of violence that began on Saturday appears to be holding.

But France expressed concern about reports of strikes by Syrian government and Russian aircraft on areas controlled by mainstream rebels.


UN Expands Syria Aid Amid Truce

SYRIAAmid a partial truce in the Syrian war, the United Nations says it plans to deliver aid to about 150,000 Syrians in besieged areas over the next five days.

The UN said that it is ready to help an estimated 1.7 million people in hard-to-reach areas by the end of March.

A cessation of hostilities began on Saturday and there have been complaints of breaches from both sides.

But it otherwise appeared to be intact with a key Syrian opposition group saying the situation was much better.

The UN’s humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Yacoub el-Hillo, called the truce “the best opportunity that the Syrian people have had over the last five years for lasting peace and stability”.

The organisation plans to use the lull to deliver food, water and medicine to towns like Madaya, where residents have reportedly been starving to death.

The UN estimated that almost 500,000 people are living under siege in Syria.

The cessation of hostilities was agreed as part of a plan by the US and Russia, who have backed opposing sides in Syria’s civil war.

It does not apply to the fight against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) or the Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda.

NATO Renews Pledge To Defend Allies

natoNATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, says the organisation’s Defence Ministers are determined to boost response forces to be able to deploy troops speedily to defend allies, while it figures out a proper response to Russia’s presence in Syria.

Russia has been conducting airstrikes in Syria, supposedly on the Islamic State (IS) militants, and recently began launching rocket strikes on targets.

Mr. Stoltenberg disclosed that Russia’s involvement has not been helpful.

Russia on the other hand, has denied it has been targeting opponents of Bashar al-Assad. It says its strikes have hit infrastructure of the so-called IS and other militant groups.

The IS has been waging a war on the Syrian and Iraqi governments, in a bid to establish a caliphate.

Heavy fighting has been reported in areas of Idlib, Hama and Latakia provinces, where a coalition of rebels that includes the Nusra Front operates.