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Syrians inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in the Daf Shawk district of Damascus yesterday.
BEIRUT: A powerful car bomb exploded in Damascus yesterday and forces loyal to Bashar Al Assad clashed with rebels across Syria as a truce intended to mark Eid Al Adha holiday unravelled and activists reported at least 70 deaths.
State television said the “terrorist car bomb” had killed five people and wounded 32, according to “preliminary figures”. Opposition activists said the bomb had gone off near a makeshift children’s playground built for the Eid holiday in the southern Daf Al Shok district of the capital.
Fighting erupted around Syria earlier as both sides violated the ceasefire arranged by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Violence was less intense than usual and activists reported no air strikes, but dozens of people were killed including 26 troops, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the bloodshed in the country.
The Syrian military said it had responded to attacks by insurgents on army positions, in line with its announcement on Thursday that it would cease military activity during the four-day holiday but reserved the right to react to rebel actions.
Violence appeared to wane in some areas, but truce breaches by both sides swiftly marred Syrians’ hopes of celebrating Eid. “We are not celebrating Eid here,” said a woman in a besieged Syrian town near the Turkish border, speaking above the noise of incessant gunfire and shelling. “No one is in the mood to celebrate. Everyone is just glad they are alive.” The Imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims to take “practical and urgent” steps to stop bloodshed in Syria.
The heaviest fighting took place around an army base at Wadi Al Daif, near the Damascus-Aleppo highway, which rebels have been trying to seize from the army for two weeks. Nine soldiers were killed by rebel bombardment of the base and four rebel fighters were killed in clashes around Wadi Al Daif. Four people were killed by tank fire and snipers in Harasta, a town near Damascus.
Rebels in the northern town near the Turkish border said a sniper had killed one of their fighters. “We don’t believe the ceasefire will work,” rebel commander Basel Eissa told Reuters. “There’s no Eid for us rebels on the front line. The only Eid we can celebrate will be liberation.”
Assad was shown on state television attending Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque. Assad, smiling and apparently relaxed, shook hands and exchanging Eid greetings with other worshippers afterwards.