Syria 'ready to explore' truce amid bombs

2012-10-17 10:01

Damascus - Syria has said it is prepared to explore a truce proposal by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, even as it unleashed multiple air strikes on rebel positions on a key highway.

The exiled opposition said on Tuesday it would welcome any ceasefire but that the ball was in the government's court to halt its daily bombardments.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that pre-dawn air raids around Maaret al-Numan were the "most violent" since insurgents captured the strategic town on the Damascus-Aleppo highway last week.

The Syrian foreign ministry said early Tuesday that it looked forward to talks with UN-Arab League envoy Brahimi on his proposal for a ceasefire for the four-day Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday beginning at the end of October, which he has been promoting on a regional tour.

But spokesperson Jihad Maqdisi stressed that the rebels and their backers would also need to be involved.

"In order to succeed in any initiative, it takes two sides," Maqdisi said in answer to a question from AFP.


"The Syrian side is interested in exploring this option and we are looking forward to talking to Mr Brahimi to see what is the position of other influential countries that he talked to in his tour," he said.

"Will they pressure the armed groups that they host and finance and arm in order to abide by such a ceasefire?"

The opposition Syrian National Council said it would expect the rebel Free Syrian Army to reciprocate any halt to the violence but that it expected the government to act first.

"We would welcome any halt to the killings but we think the appeal needs to be addressed first to the Syrian regime, which has not stopped bombarding Syrian towns and villages," SNC leader Abdel Basset Sayda said.

Rebel fighters "are only acting in self-defence, so it is normal that they would halt hostilities when the war machine does so", he added.

Brahimi was in Cairo on Tuesday on the latest leg of a swing that has already taken him to Turkey and Saudi Arabia, staunch backers of the opposition, and to Iran, Syria's closest ally.

29 airstrikes

Brahimi's office said the envoy had appealed for Iranian help to broker the truce.

"He reiterated the call by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a ceasefire and a halt to the flow of arms to both sides. A ceasefire, he said, would help create an environment that would allow a political process to develop."

The UN chief had previously called for a unilateral government ceasefire to be matched by the rebels afterwards, but that idea was rejected by Damascus as its troop losses mount.

Warplanes targeted the rebel blockade of the highway to Aleppo, theatre of intense fighting for the past three months, the Observatory said, adding that rebels responded with anti-aircraft fire.

"Since this morning, there have been 29 air strikes on the area of Maaret al-Numan," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. "Most civilians from the area have fled."

Army shelling of nearby Kafr Nabal killed two children, aged six and 10, said the Observatory, adding that they were among at least 78 people who died in bloodshed around the country.

Pope's delegation

Another five children under the age of six, and two adults, died in shelling of homes at Mayadeen village in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, added the Britain-based group.

The Observatory - which relies on a network of activists, medics and lawyers for its information - says children account for 2 300 of the 33 000 people killed in the conflict.

Pope Benedict XVI will send a delegation to the Syrian capital to "express his brotherly solidarity with the entire population", the Vatican said.

"We cannot be mere spectators to the tragedy taking place in Syria," the Holy See's number two official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said during a global synod of Roman Catholic bishops at the Vatican.

Syria has a significant Christian minority, some of them Catholic.

A UN commission investigating rights abuses in the war-torn country warned that foreign militants fighting in Syria "could contribute to an increased "radicalisation".

Supplies undelivered

"The presence of foreign militants, radical Islamists or jihadists, worries us very much," commission head Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told reporters in New York, estimating there were hundreds of foreign combatants on the ground in Syria.

"Their presence can contribute to radicalisation... this presence is particularly dangerous in a very volatile conflict," he said.

Pinheiro added that the commission feared the foreign combatants were not fighting for "the building of a democratic state in Syria" but "for their own agenda".

In other developments, the UN food agency said prices for basic provisions had nearly doubled in Syria since the conflict erupted in March last year, and that it had failed to deliver supplies to 100 000 people because of the spiralling fighting.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:34

    A bad peace is better than a good war!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-17 12:23

      There will NEVER AGAIN, be peace in Syria, while this assad terrorist is in power!!! 35000 Syrians did NOT give their lives in vain!!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 12:39

      So you want the violence to continue in Syria while accusing those that disagree with you of belonging to the "violent loony left". War is the opposite of peace and cannot secure it!

      douglas.hollis.7 - 2012-10-17 12:58

      He didn't say he wanted the violence to continue. Did he say that? He said there will never be peace while this Assad dog is in power. Sorry, terrorist...same thing really. In other words, if peace is to be brokered, it would have to involve Assad's stepping down from power, and finding his way to a place of safety, FAR removed from his home country, that will actually be willing to grant safety to such a butcher of people. Russia comes to mind. Same thing holds for his top generals, who jointly oversaw the destruction of their own country and wanton killing of their countrymen. And 2300 children, at latest count. It's beyond tragic that it could have come to this.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 15:36

      Yes, he has said that several times here. Your terrorist rebels unfortunately are in no power to demand anything in Syria.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-17 17:44

      Fidel, You just fantasize, and make stupid comments. There is nothing more, that I would like, than that the Syrian population, including these unfortunate soldiers belonging to assad'd terrorists army, have peace, and that the killings will stop; THIS EVENING. AND, IT IS POSSIBLE !!!! Only ONE family of criminal thugs, have to get the hell out of Syria. THAT'S ALL !!!!!!! And yes, it are the loonies of the violent left, that have been supporting this assad terrorist all along, including his supplier of his killing machine, the bastard Russians !!!

      larry.lachman.54 - 2012-10-17 19:56

      But Fidel and Lesego are quite happy when they read about Hamas and Hizbollah rocket attacks killing Jews in Israel.

      larry.lachman.54 - 2012-10-17 19:58

      Tyrannical regimes must be destroyed, through warfare if necessary. Every last one of them. Same for tyrannical religions. Then we will all be in peace, prosperity and harmony.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-17 20:09

      Larry, On both comments; Spot on !!!!

      duncan.gill1 - 2012-10-17 21:24

      anthony when are you going to reply to Shane.Loxton in the article "Syrian rebels unite"this is very disappointing from you!

      duncan.gill1 - 2012-10-17 21:31

      larry...Tyrannical regimes must be destroyed, through warfare if necessary. Every last one of them. Same for tyrannical religions. Which tyrannical religions are you talking about please specify?So one can read from this you believe only one religion in this world makes any sense..Hmmm seems you are a bigot my dear sir!

      larry.lachman.54 - 2012-10-17 21:41

      My dear donut. No religions make sense to me. But those that specifically espouse hatred and murder as an expression of worship, such as fundamentalist Islamic facism, must be forced by freedom loving people to reform, or to hell with its adherants.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-20 04:37

      Another stale epithet from Fidel. I suppose it's better than reading the absolute nonsense that Nelson Mandela is a phony, a lackey of the West, a modern-day Uncle Tom.

  • nathalie.reynders.58 - 2012-10-17 13:00

    The syrian coverment has to protect it's citizens, this is the duty of any covernment. They did not start this war! The US and the UN MUST stop encouraging change by force/violence. This will come back to haunt them! 63% of US citizens are currently not happy with their leaders, is it OK for China to arm the Republicans to create a change in Washington? Thats what they are doing in other countries. Why do they not use these changing times to promote DEMOCRATIC CHANGE.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-10-17 17:45

      Nathalie, Whatever !!!

      larry.lachman.54 - 2012-10-17 20:06

      Excuse me lads. Nathalie, you state that 'the Syrian government has to protect its citizens'. Did these same citizens choose the government? NO. So if the citizens do not agree with the actions and policies of the unelected government, do you not suppose that they are entitled to change their government to one more suited to their freedom and national aspirations. let us go back to your quoted statement above... - 'the Syrian government has to protect its citizens'. But Nathalie, the Syrian government is bombarding its own citizens with heavy artilary and gunships. Innocent women and children are being slaughtered indiscriminately. Can you comprehend.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-20 04:25


      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-20 04:43

      Nathalie, mainly for your sake, educate yourself about what is actually going on in Syria.

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-10-20 04:28

    Yeah right. The truce you're going to have is in heaven, after the grizzly death that you yourself has unwittingly chosen. Tragic.

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