Syrian Troops Battle Insurgents as Cease-Fire Violated

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

A car bomb exploded in the Syrian city of Deir Azzour and government warplanes carried out raids on the second day of a United Nations-brokered cease-fire, according to reports by state television and the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Deir Azzour explosion happened near a church, said Syrian TV, which alleged the opposition had breached the cease-fire intended to coincide with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The air attack by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on a building in the city of Arbeen marks the first use of warplanes since the cease-fire began, the U.K.-based Observatory said in an e-mail.

The fighting is a “clear violation of the cease-fire,” said the Observatory, which put the number of civilians killed at 33, with another 17 deaths among soldiers and rebel fighters. The army blamed “terrorists” for breaking the truce, including attacks in Idlib, Homs, Deir Azzour, Daraa and suburbs of Damascus.

At least 35,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad’s government began 19 months ago, according to the Observatory. The UN has registered more than 350,000 Syrians who have fled from their homeland to escape the conflict that has spilled over into Lebanon and Turkey.

Fighting broke out in the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of today, Mahmoud Merei, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said by phone. The opposition Local Coordination Committees said 146 people were killed across the country yesterday. There were at least 287 violations of the truce, it said in a separate e-mailed statement.

Government Camp

A car bomb exploded near the Omar bin al-Khattab mosque in Damascus yesterday, leaving dozens dead or wounded and destroying several homes, the Observatory said. Syrian TV reported five deaths and 32 injuries in the blast.

“It was always very unlikely that the cease-fire was going to work,” Torbjorn Soltvedt, a senior Middle East analyst at Bath, U.K.-based risk-advisory firm Maplecroft, said yesterday by phone. “None of the underlying issues have been addressed. As the opposition is so fragmented, a fully effective cease-fire was going to be very hard to achieve.”

Fighting broke out early yesterday at a government camp near Maarat al-Numan in Idlib province between rebels and pro-Assad forces, the Observatory said. At least nine soldiers were killed when rebels bombarded a building inside the government’s Wadi al-Deif encampment, and four opposition fighters died during battles around its perimeter, the Observatory said on its Facebook page.

Right to Respond

Syrian TV said Oct. 25 that the army would recognize the cease-fire while reserving the right to respond to rebel attacks.

The agreement to respect the truce negotiated by UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi during Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, is the first time since April that the two sides said they would stop fighting. While neither upheld the previous cease-fire, arranged by Brahimi’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, that truce slowed the pace of killing for a few days.

More than 140 Syrians were killed in fighting Oct. 25, the Observatory said on its Facebook page, adding that 71 civilians including five children and 29 rebels were among the dead.

“A comprehensive cease-fire is unimplementable,” Ayham Kamel, a Middle East analyst at Eurasia Group Ltd., said by phone from London yesterday. “The cease-fire is an opportunity to de-escalate and reach a lower level of violence.”

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said it would send 550 metric tons of supplies to 13,000 Syrian families in previously inaccessible areas if the truce holds. About 1.2 million people in Syria need emergency humanitarian aid, the Geneva-based agency said in an Oct. 25 statement.

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