- Bashar al-Assad - Syria - unrest
Violent clashes in Syria despite Eid ceasefire
At least 150 were killed in Syria on the first day of a ceasefire to mark the holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday, as activists reported continued unrest in major cities across the country.
At least 150 people were killed in violence across Syria on the first day of a ceasefire to mark the holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday, as continued unrest was reported in major cities throughout the country.
Opposition activists in Syria’s eastern city of Deir al-Zor, as well as in the suburbs of the capital Damascus and in Aleppo, where rebels hold roughly half of Syria’s most populous city, said that residential areas were being heavily bombarded on Saturday morning.
The attacks came on the second day of a truce called by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who had hoped to use it to build broader moves towards ending the 19-month-old conflict which has killed an estimated 32,000 people.
“The army began firing mortars at 7am. I have counted 15 explosions in one hour and we already have two civilians killed,” said Mohammed Doumany, an activist from the Damascus suburb of Douma, where pockets of rebels are based. “I can’t see any difference from before the truce and now,” he added.
The Observatory also reported a car bomb attack in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday that killed at least five people, which state television blamed on “terrorists”.
The Syrian military has said it responded to attacks by insurgents on army positions on Friday, in line with its announcement on Thursday that it would cease military activity during the holiday but reserved the right to react to rebel actions.
A statement from the General Command of the Armed Forces detailed several ceasefire violations in which it said “terrorists” had fired on checkpoints and bombed a military police patrol in Aleppo.
Of the more than 150 people killed on the first day of the ceasefire on Friday, most were shot by sniper fire or in clashes, the British-based Observatory said, highlighting a temporary drop in intensity of the civil war in which Assad’s forces have been conducting daily airstrikes and heavy artillery raids in most cities.
Forty-three soldiers were killed in ambushes and during clashes, it added, and state TV reported a powerful car bomb which killed five people in Damascus.
Violence had initially appeared to wane in some areas on Friday but truce breaches by both sides swiftly marred Syrians’ hopes of celebrating Eid al-Adha, the climax of the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca, in peace.
Brahimi’s ceasefire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, President Assad’s main foreign allies.
The war in Syria pits mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, from the minority Alawite sect which is distantly related to Shi’ite Islam. Brahimi has warned that the conflict could suck in Sunni and Shi’ite powers across the Middle East.
Brahimi’s predecessor, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, declared a ceasefire in Syria on April 12, but it soon became a dead letter, along with the rest of his six-point peace plan.
The ceasefire agreement, put forth by joint UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and endorsed by the Security Council, was to be in place for only the four days of the Eid al-Adha holiday. But the agreement faced difficulties from the beginning, as it has no mechanism for monitoring the truce and no stated plans for what follows next.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)