Syria Accepts Muslim Holiday Cease-Fire as Violence Rages

Syrian Army Accepts Muslim Holiday Cease-Fire as Violence Rages
Free Syria Army (FSA) fighters battle with regime loyalist soldiers in Syria's northern city of Aleppo. Photographer: Javier Manzano/AFP/Getty Images

The Syrian army will recognize a cease-fire for the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday proposed by the United Nations and reserves the right to respond to rebel attacks, state television announced.

The cease-fire, proposed by UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, will end on Oct. 29, the state broadcaster said today. The announcement came as clashes raged near Damascus, the capital, and in Aleppo, Daraa and Deir Ezzor, claiming the lives of 25 people, according to Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Arabyia television, citing activists, said the death toll rose to 46.

“There’s no sign at all of any preparation for a cease-fire, on both sides, because both sides are attacking each other,” Rahman said from London.

Assad’s government has been fighting a 19-month uprising that the observatory says has killed more than 30,000 people, and the UN has registered more than 350,000 Syrians who have fled from their homeland. The conflict has spilled over into Lebanon and Turkey.

“It’s difficult to imagine the rebels would agree, basically because of the divisions,” Ayham Kamel, Middle East analyst at Eurasia Group Ltd., said by phone from London before the announcement of Syria’s acceptance. “They will be suspicious of the regime accepting it and they will see it as an opportunity for them to move forward.”

Security Council

The UN Security Council backed the proposal yesterday and urged outside countries to use their influence on the government and rebels to implement the cease-fire. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei today announced his country’s support for the halt to fighting at a regular briefing in Beijing.

“We commend and support the mediation efforts of the UN special envoy and the cease-fire decision during the holiday in Syria,” he said. “We are also happy to see the reaction by relevant parties to the recommendations.”

The Syrian government and opposition fighters last agreed to a halt in hostilities in April. The conflict resumed within days, with each side accusing the other of failing to abide by the terms of the truce.

Acceptance of the cease-fire by Assad’s government “doesn’t mean anything because it doesn’t mean everyone on the ground will agree,” Rahman said.

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