Syria truce in tatters as clashes rage on
Syrian jets bombarded Sunni Muslim areas of Damascus and across the country yesterday, activists said, as president Bashar al-Assad kept up air strikes against rebels despite a UN- brokered truce that now appears to be in tatters.
Both sides in the 19-month-old conflict have violated the ceasefire intended to mark the Muslim religious holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The truce, brokered by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, was supposed to come into effect on Friday, the first day of the four-day holiday.
Syrian authorities blamed “armed terrorists” for breaking the ceasefire. But the opposition said a ceasefire was impossible while Mr Assad continued to move his tanks and use heavy artillery and jet fighters against populated areas.
“The truce is practically over. Damascus has been under brutal air raids since day one, and hundreds of people have been arrested,” said veteran opposition campaigner Fawaz Tello.
“Assad has been trying to use the ceasefire to seize back control of areas of Damascus.”
Mr Brahimi hopes to end the conflict that has killed at least 32,000 people and increased instability in the Middle East.
The ceasefire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, Mr Assad’s main foreign allies.
But the truce seems destined to share the fate of failed peace efforts that have preceded it, with dozens of people continuing to be killed daily and international and regional powers at odds while they back different sides.
A sectarian divide between Mr Assad’s minority Alawite sect and Syria’s majority Sunnis is also growing, fuelling religious fervour in the region and driving more foreign jihadists into the country.
In the capital Damascus, activists and residents reported large explosions and plumes of smoke rising over the city as Syrian airforce jets bombed the suburbs of Zamalka, Irbin, Harasta and Zamalka.
A statement by the Harasta Media Office, an opposition activists’ group, said aerial and ground bombardments had killed at least 45 people in the district since Friday.
Electricity, water and communications had been cut and dozens of wounded at the Harasta National Hospital had been moved as the bombardment closed in, the group said.
Activists also reported fighting in the suburb of Douma to the north-east, where Free Syrian Army fighters have been attacking roadblocks manned by forces loyal to the government.
Warplanes also hit towns and villages in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor and the northern provinces of Idlib. Rebels have been trying to push their advantage in rural areas by cutting off supply lines to the major cities, none of which has fallen completely under opposition control.
Fighting was reported in the city of Aleppo, Syria’s industrial and commercial hub. Rebels attacked several road blocks manned by Mr Assad’s loyalists, and a 20-year-old woman was killed in army bombardment in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighbourhood, opposition activists said.
Rebel attempts to portray themselves as a united alternative to Mr Assad suffered a setback when clashes broke out on Saturday in Ashrafieh, a Kurdish district of Aleppo that had up until then stayed out of the fighting.
Armed clashes broke out between opposition fighters and members of the Syrian branch of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).
Mouhaimen al-Rumaid, co-ordinator for the opposition Syrian Rebel Front, said the trouble erupted when PKK fighters helped MrAssad’s forces defend a security compound in Ashrafieh that came under rebel attack.
Mr Rumaid said scores of people were killed and rebels seized dozens of PKK members.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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