Syria bombards major cities, weakening truce
Beirut, October 27, 2012
Syrian opposition activists reported a return to heavy government bombardment in major cities on Saturday, further undermining a truce intended to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha religious holiday.
Activists in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor, the suburbs of Damascus and in Aleppo, where rebels hold roughly half of Syria's most populous city, said that mortar bombs were being fired into residential areas on Saturday morning.
The bombardment 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 7 a.m. 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 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.
More than 150 people were killed on Friday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based opposition organisation with a network of sources within Syria.
Most were shot by sniper fire or in clashes, the 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. – Reuters
More INTERNATIONAL NEWS Stories
- $5bn poll spend to boost India economy
- Libya authorises use of force against Korean tanker
- Ukraine PM says he will go to US to discuss crisis
- Syrian journalist killed covering fighting
- Malaysian jet may have turned back before vanishing
- No sign of missing plane; Malaysia probes false passports
- Two Europeans not on board 'missing' Malaysian jet
- China draws red line on North Korea
- Saudi sentences three to death for 2003 bombing
- First bitcoin machine opens in UK
- US sanctions will boomerang, warns Russia
- China plans $50bn bank to fund projects
- Sony to sell Tokyo 'birthplace'
- Obama orders sanctions over Russian moves
- Crimea parliament votes to join Russia
- Arab League to be revamped
- 'Upskirting' is legal: Massachusetts court
- Singapore probes 'unnatural' death of bitcoin trader
- Onus on world powers for Syria war crimes: UN
- US, Russia set for talks on Ukraine crisis
- Brent oil drops below $109
- Services outshine manufacturing, pushing up jobs
- Bitcoin bank shut down after hacker attack
- India to kick off world's biggest poll on April 7
- China signals focus on reforms
- Hundreds ready for bitcoin exchange class action
- Space taxi, Jupiter mission in Obama budget
- Putin: Use of force last resort in Ukraine
- Powers to boost Lebanese military, economy
- Egypt bans Hamas activities in Egypt