Ceasefire in Syria ends in air raids and car bombings


SYRIA’S FOUR-DAY holiday ceasefire ended with a reported 60 air raids, shelling, car bombs in the Damascus area and an artillery exchange across the Turkish border.

State news agency Sana said 10 people were killed and 40 wounded when a car bomb detonated in the pro-government Christian and Druze Jaramana quarter of the capital where residents have established neighbourhood watch groups to maintain security.

Opposition activists claimed air attacks were the heaviest and most widespread since the conflict began. Aleppo, the Damascus region, Deir al-Zor and Idlib were said to be targeted.

The military had warned that it would strike “terrorist remnants with an iron fist [since they] repeatedly violated the cease- fire”.

The opposition Local Co-ordination Committee reported that a shell fired by troops struck a bus in the restive Hajar al-Aswad area south of Damascus, killing at least eight, and state television said a car bomb later exploded in this district, without giving the number of casualties.

The Turkish army bombarded Syrian forces after mortar shells landed inside Turkish territory during loyalist clashes with rebels in the Syrian town of Harim.

The ceasefire was violated only hours after it began on Friday, the first day of Eid al-Adha, the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice when fighters of the radical fundamentalist Jabhat al-Nusra – which rejected the truce – attacked Kurdish militia in the Kurdish majority Ashrafiyeh quarter of Aleppo.

A number of subsequent breaches were also caused by al-Nusra and its jihadi allies, which triggered retaliatory strikes from government forces.

“This crisis cannot be solved with more weapons and bloodshed . . . the guns must fall silent,” said UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

Following consultations with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said it was regrettable that the ceasefire had failed, but vowed to continue his mission.

“We think this civil war must end . . . the support of Russia and other members of the security council is indispensable,” he added.

While there is no proposal for peacekeepers, he said, contingency planning had been made for deployment of a force.

Some 150 representatives of Syrian opposition groups opened a three-day meeting in Istanbul to plan for “transitional governance and management following the downfall of the Assad regime”.

Among the factions attending the gathering are the expatriate Syrian National Council, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Local Co-ordinating Committees as well as the rebel Free Syrian Army.

The Syrian National Council and Reporters Without Borders condemned the abduction of Lebanese journalist Fidaa Itani, a supporter of the insurgency, by the rebel Northern Storm Battalion in Azaz. The group has put him under house arrest, claiming his reporting was “incompatible with the revolution.” He could released and deported from Syria in coming days.