Middle East

Hopes dim for Eid al-Adha cease-fire in Syria

A Syrian rebel distributes bullets to comrades in the Karm al-Jabal district of Aleppo.

AMMAN/BEIRUT: Syrian rebels and an Arab League official dashed hopes Monday that a temporary cease-fire would go into effect during the Eid al-Adha holiday later this week.

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi’s proposal for a truce “is just a media bubble,” according to Colonel Qassem Saadeddine, a spokesman of the joint command of the rebel Free Syrian Army inside the country.

“Who is going to implement it and who is going to supervise it? We are still committed to any U.N. decision. But on this truce ... what is the mechanism to implement it?” Saadeddine told Reuters.

He said rebels had implemented the last cease-fire – an April 12 deal brokered by former mediator Kofi Annan – but that Assad’s forces had not honored it. Syrian authorities accuse the rebels of violating the cease-fire.

Another rebel commander in Damascus, who declined to be identified, was blunter: “The truce will not happen. We will not accept it. It’s not in our interest.”

Brahimi, who held talks in Damascus Sunday with President Bashar Assad, has proposed that government forces and the rebels hold fire during the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which starts Friday.

His call has won the backing of Iran and Russia, which have provided support to Assad, and Turkey, which backs the rebels in a conflict that has killed more than 30,000 people.

Brahimi declined to say how Assad had responded to his cease-fire appeal, and suggested it was up to individual groups to decide how to implement it.

Syria has not publicly embraced Brahimi’s proposal and state media quoted Assad as saying any initiative must be centered on “halting terrorism and ... commitment by the countries involved in supporting, arming and harboring the terrorists in Syria to stop these actions.”

Ahmad Ben Hilli, deputy secretary-general of the Arab League, said on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai that “the indications that are now apparent and the government’s reaction ... do not show any signs of a real desire to implement this cease-fire.”

The head of the U.N.’s peacekeeping force, speaking in New York, said the world body was preparing various contingency plans to send peacekeepers as part of a cease-fire or political deal, but added that it was too early say how many would be needed.

Herve Ladsous warned, however, that the plans would need the approval of the U.N. Security Council which has been divided on the 19-month conflict.

In Syria, fighting and violence throughout the country Monday claimed the lives of 102 people, according to the Local Coordination Committees, a pro-uprising network of activists, while the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 84 people, including 22 civilians, were killed.

Sunday’s death toll, according to the Observatory, stood at 173 people: 65 civilians, 46 rebels and 62 government troops.

Separately, Jordan sustained its first military casualty in the Syrian uprising when a Jordanian soldier was killed before dawn Monday in a clash with militants trying to cross the border into Syria, according to Information and Culture Minister Samih Maaytah.

He told AFP that Corporal Mohammad Abdullah al-Manasir, 25, was “martyred during a clash with an armed group that was trying to enter Syria.”

A military statement said soldiers guarding the border exchanged fire during the night with two separate groups comprising 13 gunmen in total. The corporal was killed during an exchange of fire with eight militants, according to the statement. Several of the gunmen were arrested in possession of automatic weapons.

A separate clash occurred with another “armed Takfiri [jihadist] group” that tried to cross the border several hours later, the statement said. All five members of that group were arrested, one with injuries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 23, 2012, on page 1.




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