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Syria fighting rages on last day of ineffectual cease-fire

Government forces shell areas held by the opposition and a car bombing targets a suburb considered loyal to President Bashar Assad, reports say.

October 29, 2012|By Times staff
  • Walls are missing after a car bomb went off in the Jaramana suburb of Damascus, Syria.
Walls are missing after a car bomb went off in the Jaramana suburb of Damascus,… (Syrian Arab News Agency )

BEIRUT — Syrian government shelling of areas held by opposition forces and a car bomb in a suburb considered loyal to President Bashar Assad killed and injured dozens of people Monday, activists and state news media said.

The fighting came on what was supposed to be the last day of a four-day holiday cease-fire. The truce, however, was broken within hours of its start Friday.

Activists reported fierce government shelling in Damascus, the capital, and its suburbs. In the Hajar Aswad neighborhood, eight people in a minibus were killed when a shell struck a building and caused rubble to fall onto the vehicle, activists said. Four of the dead were members of the same family — two children and their parents.

Photos and video reportedly taken at the scene showed children's bloody bodies lined up on the ground and the injured being taken away by taxis or buses. Government forces later raided the Palestine Hospital in the neighborhood and arrested some of the wounded, activists said.

In the Damascus suburb of Jaramana, an area considered loyal to the government, state media reported that a car bomb killed 11 and injured more than 50. State media blamed the attack on "terrorists."

The reported violence came on the final day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha. The reports could not be independently confirmed because the Syrian government restricts media access to the conflict zone.

Other opposition-held neighborhoods and suburbs of Damascus as well as several cities across the country were also under regular shelling and airstrikes Monday, activists said.

In Aleppo, clashes and airstrikes continued in several areas. In the Maadi district, 15 people were killed, including seven members of a family, when barrel bombs were dropped near a hospital, activists said.

The cease-fire brokered by Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League envoy to Syria, was meant to provide four days of respite from the fighting. Daily death tolls in the last few months have routinely topped 100, opposition groups say, including many civilians. The truce also was to serve as a possible foundation for further diplomatic efforts.

Brahimi was in Moscow on Monday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russia is one of Syria's last remaining allies and, along with China, has frustrated action by the United Nations on Syria.

"What I did was just really make an appeal to all those who are fighting inside Syria, to give their people a respite for a few days," Brahimi said at a news conference after his meeting. "I am terribly sorry ... that this appeal has not been heard at the level we hoped it would."

Brahimi, who replaced former envoy Kofi Annan, has described his chances of bringing peace to Syria as a "nearly impossible" mission.

The cease-fire had not been expected to succeed given past failures, many observers said, but Brahimi said diplomatic efforts would continue. There are no plans to send U.N. peacekeepers to Syria, he said.

"The situation is bad and is getting worse," he said.

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