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Syria: No letup in fighting as Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha

October 15, 2013|By Nabih Bulos
  • Syrian President Bashar Assad, third from left, attends a prayer service in Damascus marking the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, third from left, attends a prayer service… (Syrian Arab News Agency…)

BEIRUT — There was no respite from the fighting in Syria on Tuesday as Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Islamic holidays. Government airstrikes rattled rebel strongholds on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, and clashes were reported across the country, according to opposition and government accounts.

State television, meanwhile, broadcast images of Syrian President Bashar Assad sitting cross-legged at a prayer service led by Imam Mohammed Tawfiq Bouti, son of a senior pro-government cleric who died in a bombing at a Damascus mosque in March. Each side in the conflict blames the other for the attack that killed the imam's father, Mohammed Bouti, along with scores of others.

After Tuesday’s service in Damascus, photographs shared via social media showed Assad wading through crowds of supporters, shaking hands.

Although in the past both sides have attempted to observe temporary cease-fires on religious holidays, there was no sign of a halt to hostilities Tuesday.

Rebel fighters fired mortar rounds and rockets into three Damascus neighborhoods, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based pro-opposition group.

The group also reported government bombardments in the eastern Ghouta district outside Damascus, a target of deadly chemical attacks in August, as well as in the southwestern city of Dara, near the Jordanian border. No casualty figures were immediately available.

Opposition activists accused pro-government militia fighters of throwing a hand grenade in a mosque in Tadamon, a heavily contested district in south Damascus, killing one person. An administrator for the loyalist National Defense Forces in Tadamon disputed the opposition account.

"The person who threw the grenade was the one who died in the incident," said the administrator, who asked to be identified by a traditional nickname, Abu Elia. "It was a personal fight ... nothing political."

According to United Nations estimates, more than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year,


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Bulos is a special correspondent.

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