US and Russia fail to agree on Syria peace talks
Written by Diana Alrifai: Aljazeera
A Syrian opposition council formed in Riyadh last month said on Wednesday it will not attend peace negotiations if a third party joins the talks, a reference to a Russian bid to include other groups in the process that was due to be launched next week, Reuters reported.
Riad Hijab, who heads the council, accused Russia of impeding negotiations, and also told a news conference in Riyadh that the opposition could not negotiate while Syrians were dying as a result of blockades and bombardment.
Sources told Zaman al-Wasl that Brigadier General Asaad al-Zoubi, Southern Front's representative, will lead in the negotiating team in Geneva talks.
Russian air strikes kill over 1,000 civilians in Syria
Russian air strikes, which began in September 2015, have killed at least 1,000 people, including over 300 children, monitoring groups said. "At least 1,505 people have been killed in Russian air strikes since they started in September 2015. We have documented their names and can say at least 346 of them were children and only at least 47 were fighters," Bassam al-Ahmad, Spokesperson for the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC), told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
The VDC is an independent, non-governmental organisation that has been monitoring the conflict in Syria since April 2011.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 1,015, adding that 238 of those killed are children.The Observatory also said that at least 1,141 fighters were killed, including fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
First Russian air strike targeted civilians Khalid, a volunteer from the Syria Civil Defence, said civilians were the target on the first day Russia launched its air strike on September 30, 2015. "Hearing Russian on the radio? We knew straight away that this was a different type of attack. The targets were 100 percent civilians. A whole neighbourhood was destroyed in Talbiseh, including 60 homes of civilians," Khaled said.
Known also as the White Helmets, the Syria Civil Defence is a group of volunteer rescuers formed in 2013 that now numbers more than 2,700 volunteers. According to Russia's official news agency, TASS, the air campaign consists of 69 warplanes and helicopters.
The Syrian conflict has killed at least 250,000 people, according to the UN, and more than half of Syria's prewar population of 22.4 million has been internally displaced or have fled abroad. British-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is now claiming that more than 1,000 civilians have lost their lives as a result of Russian bombs.