Clashes despite ceasefire on Syrian feast day
SYRIA’S CEASEFIRE was broken by scattered clashes yesterday but a fall in the level of fighting prompted festive anti-government demonstrations following mosque prayers for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast commemorating the biblical prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of a ram rather than his son.
Families in quiet areas also enjoyed a moment of peace, gave children new clothing and paid traditional visits to the graves of loved ones.
Such visits were particularly poignant this Eid since up to 33,000 people have died since the revolt erupted in 2011. Activists said 48 were slain, a reduction from the daily average of more than 100.
President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance at prayers at the Afram mosque in Damascus and was shown on state television congratulating worshippers.
While the opposition reported tank fire in the town of Harasta, east of Damascus, shelling in Homs, clashes at a military airport near Aleppo and gunfire along Syria’s border with Turkey, blame for these incidents could not be apportioned due to the absence of monitors.
Syria’s national news agency Sana said a car bomb exploded at a playground in the southern Zahera district of the capital, killing five, wounding 32 and causing extensive damage.
The most flagrant violation was committed by the radical funda-mentalist Jabhat al-Nusra, which flatly rejected the truce and mounted an attack on government troops at an army base near the town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway.
Ansar al-Islam, another puritan faction, has also refused to abide by the truce.
Although Gen Mustafa al-Sheikh, the Turkey-based chief of the military council of the rebel Free Syrian Army agreed, the council has little control over units on the ground in Syria.
However, most seemed to abide by the four-day ceasefire, proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
To commit major violations could earn either or both sides condemnation of the United Nations Security Council, which gave the initiative unanimous support.
Germany, Turkey, and Iran also fully back the truce.
Their support is significant because the Syrian rebels’ sponsor, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently held consultations with regime ally Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is due in Berlin on Tuesday for talks on the Syrian crisis with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr Brahimi hopes the temporary ceasefire will bring a reduction in violence that could lead to a long-term truce and launch negotiations for transition to a democratic government.