Eid Truce Broken As Syrian Army Strikes Major Cities
At least eight people have been killed near Damascus on Saturday by a Syrian Army airstrike, despite a declaration of truce for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noted the attack, saying that the Syrian Army has launched attacks in several major cities, despite the truce, reports Al Arabiya. Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Observatory, stated:
“An air strike targeted a building in the town of Irbin, killing at least eight men. This was the first fighter jet air strike since the declaration of an Eid truce. The truce is dead … We can no longer talk of a truce.”
It is not yet clear which side broke the truce first, because the Syrian army has also accused rebels of violating the treaty. The military spoke on state television, saying:
“For the second day, terrorist groups continued to flagrantly violate the ceasefire announced and respected by the army command. The army will continue to track this increase of violations … and fight back against these criminal acts.”
So far at least 150 people, including seven women and six children, have been killed since the truce began on Friday. Al Jazeera notes that Mohammed Doumany, an activist from Douma, a Damascus suburb, stated:
“The army began firing mortars at 7am I have counted 15 explosions in one hour and we already have two civilians killed. I can’t see any difference from before the truce and now.”
State television also announced on Saturday that so-called terrorist groups (their term for the Syrian opposition) detonated a car bomb in a main street of Deir al-Zor. The broadcaster stated:
“Armed terrorist groups have again violated the truce, by setting off a car bomb blast in front of the Syriac church in Deir al-Zor, causing significant material damage to the church facade.”
Opposition groups in Syria have accused the government of being responsible for the car bombing. The Free Syrian Army added that four of its fighters were killed in the car bomb blast.
The fighting in Syria began 19 months ago when a group rose up to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Since then, more than 30,000 people have been killed. The Eid truce is the second truce to be made and broken since fighting began. The first was made by former UN peace envoy Kofi Annan as part of a 12 step plan for peace.
Mass killings broke this treaty. The second was brokered this week by Annan’s successor, Lakhdar Brahimi, who gained agreement from both rebel groups and the Syrian government for a four-day peace treaty. While regime forces agreed to the treaty, they reserved the right to respond to any attacks.
Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, the head of the Free Syrian Army military council in Aleppo, stated that the ceasefire initiative has fallen apart. He insisted, however, that the FSA did not break the truce, but instead were carrying out defensive actions. Al-Okaidi stated:
“I was on several fronts yesterday and the army did not stop shelling. Our mission is to defend the people, it is not us who are attacking.”
Reuters noted before the airstrikes Saturday morning that violence had been less intense than usual for the weekend, though dozens of people were still killed, including 26 troops.
While the violence appeared to slow down in some areas, it stayed high in others, marring hopes of Syrian citizens to enjoy a peaceful Eid al-Adha, the climax of the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. One woman in a besieged Syrian town near the Turkish border, who spoke above the noise of gunfire and shelling, stated:
“We are not celebrating Eid here. No one is in the mood to celebrate. Everyone is just glad they are alive.”
With the Syrian peace treaty broken, it is unclear how long it will take for peace to come to the war-torn region.