Syria truce hopes slim as violence rages

2012-10-23 14:32
File, AP)

File, AP)

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Damascus - Hopes of a truce in war-torn Syria during this week's Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday remained slim on Tuesday as clashes showed no signs of easing and the death toll mounted.

"Neither the rebels nor the regime appear to want a ceasefire, and the daily death toll continues to exceed 100," Syrian Observatory of Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The Observatory said warplanes raided a district of the northern city of Aleppo as fighting across the country kept up unabated, three days ahead of Eid, during which peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has proposed a ceasefire.

In Syria's second city Aleppo, a rebel was killed in fighting that was taking place in several districts, while planes bombed the Katergi quarter, the Observatory said.

In the Damascus provincial town of Harasta, at least three rebels were killed and a civilian died from sniper fire, the Britain-based group said.

In the capital, security forces carried out searches in the Zahira quarter, and one man was killed in a bomb attack on the southeastern outskirts.

The Observatory also reported fighting in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and in Daraa, southern Syria.

And the strategic town of Maaret al-Numan came under aerial bombardment, as fierce clashes broke out in nearby Jisr al-Shughur and around the army base at Wadi Daif, which has been under siege by rebels for more than a week.

Maaret al-Numan has been the scene of intense fighting since it fell to rebels on 9 October, severing a key army supply route.

Peace keeping force plans

Near Syria's border with Iraq, bombing killed three civilians in the town of Albu Kamal, the Observatory said, giving an initial toll of at least 10 people killed nationwide on Tuesday.

The Arab League on Monday dampened hopes of a truce.

"Unfortunately, hope for implementing the truce during Eid al-Adha is slim so far," Arab League Deputy Secretary General Ahmed Ben Helli told AFP on the sidelines of the World Energy Forum in Dubai.

"The signs, both on the ground and by the government... do not point to the presence of any real will" to implement a truce," he said.

In the face of the 19-month revolt against his regime, President Bashar Assad issued an amnesty on Tuesday for all crimes committed in Syria "up until today", state television said, but with rebels excluded.

Despite the violence, the United Nations has held to the hope that the foes will observe a truce during the four-day Eid, saying it had plans to assemble a peacekeeping force if a ceasefire takes hold.

"We are getting ourselves ready to act if it is necessary and a mandate is approved," UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said in New York, cautioning that the plans would need the approval of the 15-nation Security Council.

The UN-Arab League peace envoy Brahimi has said he contacted political opposition leaders inside and outside Syria and armed groups in the country and "found them to be very favourable" to the idea of a truce.

National dialogue

A senior Iranian official said Tehran could soon host a "national dialogue" in the region among all the parties to the conflict.

"Representatives of the [Syrian] government and all political and opposition groups will soon begin a national dialogue in a regional country, and possibly in Tehran," said Hossein Amir Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs.

"Some opposition groups have however rejected this idea, but we are continuing our efforts to persuade them," he added.

Armed opposition groups reject any Iranian involvement, reflecting the view the United States and some Western and Arab countries hold that Tehran is discredited by its unwavering support for Assad.

Brahimi has said a temporary truce could be the first step to dialogue on a more permanent peace and warned that the conflict poses a threat to the whole region.

Assad met the envoy in Damascus on Sunday and said he was "open to any sincere efforts seeking to find a political solution to the crisis based on respecting Syria's sovereignty and rejecting any foreign interference."

The Syrian Observatory said at least 115 people, including 43 civilians, were killed across the country on Monday, adding to a toll of more than 34 000 people killed since the anti-regime revolt erupted in March 2011.

In Lebanon, 11 people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-Assad camps in the port city of Tripoli since the assassination on Friday of a top security official in a Beirut bomb blast widely blamed on Damascus.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

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