Friday, 26 October 2012

Syrian army pledges four-day Eid truce


BEIRUT THE Syrian army promised to observe a four-day cease-fire for Eid Al Adha starting on Friday, while rebels claimed to have taken control of new areas in the key battleground of Aleppo.

In the announcement read on Thursday on state TV, the army granted itself significant loopholes, saying it will respond to rebel attacks or efforts to bolster their positions as well as the entry of fighters into Syria from neighbouring countries.

The call for a four-day ceasefire for the Eid al Adha holiday is currently the international community’s only idea on how to try to stop 19 months of violence in Syria.

International envoy Lakhdar Brahimi proposed the idea, saying he hopes it will lead to a longer term cease-fire and negotiations between the sides. Brahimi represents the UN and the Arab League.

Rebels fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar al Assad have no unified command, and rebel reaction to the idea ranged from scepticism that the government would keep its promises to outright refusal.

Abdelbaset Sieda, head of the main opposition group in exile, the Syrian National Council, said he had little faith the regime would hold its fire, but that rebels would respond accordingly.

“We are awaiting the regime side.

If they accept it, we will accept it also,” he said by phone.

Rebel commanders inside Syria have said in recent days that they did not plan to stop fighting.

The cease-fire pledge came amid rebel claims of major advances in Syria’s largest city on Thursday, with the rebels claiming to have seized area long controlled by the regime.

Activists reported heavy clashes citywide on Thursday, particularly around a military airport. Bassam al Dada, a rebel spokesman, said in a phone interview that anti-regime fighters have taken several areas that have seen months of clashes, including the southwestern neighbourhoods of Salaheddin and Suleiman al Halabi.

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