BEIRUT — Warplanes unleashed airstrikes on the suburbs of the Syrian capital and near the rebel-held city of Aleppo on Friday, hours before a cease-fire brokered by the United States and Russia was to go into effect.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the warplanes in Friday's strikes were believed to be Russian. The Kremlin did not comment the latest developments but denied allegations that the Russian air force bombed civilian positions east of Damascus the previous day.
The bombings came as the main Syrian opposition and rebel umbrella group said some 97 factions had agreed to abide by the cease-fire. The High Negotiations Committee, or HNC, said a military committee has been formed to follow up on the cease-fire, which is scheduled to kick-in at midnight (5 p.m. ET Friday).
The rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma was hit 40 times Friday, the Observatory said, along with other areas east of the capital, killing at least eight people, including three women and four children. The monitoring group said the air raids were conducted as Syrian government's artillery shelled the area, which is a stronghold of the Army of Islam rebel group.
Mazen al-Shami, an activist based in the area, said the warplanes were Russians, adding that they carried out some 60 air raids on Friday also. He said 25 strikes targeted Douma. "The air raids intensified after the revolutionary factions said they will abide by the cease fire," al-Shami said via Skype.
The Observatory also reported dozens of airstrike north of the northern city of Aleppo, which has been under attack by troops and pro-government militias for weeks.
Late Thursday, President Barack Obama put the onus on Russia and its allies — including the Assad government — to live up to their commitments under the agreement.
In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country will keep hitting "terrorist organizations" in Syria even after the truce is implemented. He reiterated at a meeting of top officials of the Federal Security Service on Friday that the cease-fire does not cover groups such as ISIS and other factions.
The opposition umbrella, HNC, said in a statement that the Syrian "regime and its allies should not exploit the [truce] and continue with their hostilities against opposition factions under the pretext of fighting terrorists."