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DAMASCUS: Fighting, air raids and a car bombing shook Syria yesterday, monitors said, as the international community looked to pick up the pieces of a failed bid to halt the violence for a Muslim holiday ceasefire.
Rebels stormed regime positions in the suburbs of Damascus as air strikes pummelled opposition-held areas on the outskirts of the capital, activists and a watchdog said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a regime air raid strike in the northwestern province of Idlib killed 16 people, including seven children.
The four-day ceasefire proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi already collapsed amid clashes, shelling and car bomb attacks hours after it had been due to take effect with the start of Eid holidays.
An army statement yesterday blamed the ceasefire’s collapse on “violations” by rebels. The rebels for their part have said they have only reacted to regime attacks.
With hopes shattered of even a temporary halt to the 19 months of bloodshed in Syria, diplomats said Brahimi is looking ahead to new efforts to tackle the crisis.
He is to go to the UN Security Council in November with new proposals to push for talks between President Bashar Al Assad and the opposition, UN diplomats said.
On the ground, rebel forces seized three military posts in the Damascus suburb of Douma amid fierce fighting and killed four soldiers at another checkpoint in the region, the Syrian Observatory said. A car bomb ripped through Sbeineh southeast of the capital, it said, although there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Regime warplanes hit the nearby towns of Irbin, Zamalka and Harasta, where the military has been trying for weeks to dislodge rebel forces, the group said. They also struck a building in the town of Bara in Idlib, killing 16 people including seven children and five women, the Observatory said.
At least 52 people were killed yesterday including 29 civilians, according to a preliminary count compiled by the Observatory, following 114 deaths on Saturday.
The Britain-based Observatory relies on a countrywide network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals.
In northern commercial hub Aleppo, fighting broke out in several districts, as the army shelled two neighbourhoods including the ancient Unesco-listed souks in the heart of Syria’s second city, it said.
Assad’s regime has blamed the rebels for the failure of the ceasefire, with insurgents responding that they have only responded to regime violence. In a statement, the army said that the rebels sought to “destroy” the country.
“The terrorist groups’ ongoing, brazen violations to the declared truce are hard proof that they are complicit in the project to shatter and destroy Syria,” it said.
It vowed to hit rebels “with an iron fist in order to eradicate them and to save the nation from their evils.” Brahimi had hoped the Eid truce might lead to a more permanent ceasefire to push for a political solution and allow aid to reach stricken areas of the country.
Rights groups say more than 35,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began as an anti-regime uprising but is now a civil war pitting mainly Sunni rebels against Assad’s regime dominated by his minority Alawite sect.