Hezbollah Recovers Body of Senior Commander Killed in Syria

February 29, 2016 Updated: February 29, 2016

BEIRUT—Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group said Monday it had recovered the body of a senior commander who was killed during fighting in Syria’s northern province of Aleppo as sporadic fighting continued across Syria, threatening to derail a fragile cease-fire now in its third day.

Hezbollah said Monday the body of Ali Fayyad, known locally as Haj Alaa, was recovered Sunday night in an operation in which Syrian army and Hezbollah special forces took part.

Fayyad is a Hezbollah veteran who has led major battles against the Israeli army in south Lebanon. Lebanese media say he was among four Hezbollah fighters killed in Aleppo last week.

Hezbollah has been fighting alongside government troops in Syria and the forces recently took from Islamic State militants the town of Khanaser and its surroundings in Aleppo. The Syrian government said it captured more areas around Khanaser Monday in continued fighting.

A Russia-U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect at midnight Friday excludes the ISIS group as well as al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. The cease-fire has significantly reduced violence across the war-ravaged country, bringing some respite to civilians particularly from airstrikes.

But accusations of breaches by both sides threaten to torpedo the cease-fire, which aims at bringing back the Syrian government and the opposition to peace talks in Geneva next week.

The opposition on Sunday reported air raids on several parts of northern Syria and warned that continued violations would jeopardize the planned resumption of U.N.-brokered peace talks.

Riad Hijab, who heads the High Negotiations Committee, an umbrella for opposition and rebel factions, said in a statement directed to U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon that Russian, Iranian and government forces have not stopped hostilities since the truce went into effect.

Hijab said there had been 24 cases of shelling and five cases of ground attacks. He added that Russian warplanes carried out 26 airstrikes on Sunday alone targeting rebels that are abiding by the truce.

The French foreign minister called for a meeting “without delay” of a task force to monitor a cessation of hostilities in Syria following reports of air strikes targeting the moderate opposition.

Jean-Marc Ayrault made the comments Monday shortly before addressing a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. U.N. special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has already been planning a meeting of the task force, led by the United States and Russia, later in the day.

Ayrault told reporters he planned to discuss the “attacks including by air” with de Mistura and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Critics say Russia and Syrian forces have been targeting the moderate opposition.