Syria violence rages despite UN truce hopes
Deadly clashes in Syria showed no signs of easing on Tuesday, even as the United Nations said it has plans to assemble a peacekeeping force in case a truce proposed by its special envoy takes hold.
Warplanes raided a district of the northern city of Aleppo as fighting across the country kept up unabated, three days ahead of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha during which peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has proposed a ceasefire.
“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.
In Syria’s second city Aleppo, a rebel was killed in fighting, which was taking place in several districts, while planes bombed the Katergi quarter, the Observatory said.
In the Damascus provincial town of Harasta, at least two rebels were killed, the Britain-based group said.
In the capital itself, security forces carried out searches in the Zahira quarter, where gunfire could be heard. Overnight, one man was killed in a bomb attack on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus.
The Observatory also reported fighting in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor and in Daraa, southern Syria.
In the face of the 19-month revolt against his regime, President Bashar al-Assad issued an amnesty on Tuesday for all crimes committed in Syria “up until today,” state television said, but with rebels excluded.
He ordered “a general amnesty for crimes committed before October 23,” except for those carried out by “terrorists” — the regime’s term for rebels.
Despite the violence, the United Nations 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.
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.
However, 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.
On Monday, two bombs exploded in Damascus after a day of pitched battles between troops and rebels on the edge of the capital, in Aleppo and in the northwestern rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan.
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.
Brahimi has said a temporary truce could be the first step to a more permanent peace.
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.”
Brahimi has warned that the conflict poses a threat to the whole region.
In neighbouring Lebanon, 10 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.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]