‘Slim’ hope of truce as fighting rages in Syria

Hopes of a truce being implemented in war-torn Syria during this week’s Eid holidays are “slim,” the Arab League said Monday, as heavy fighting erupted in Damascus and on northern battlefields.

UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi had on Sunday indicated a favourable response to his appeal to both sides of the Syrian conflict to observe a truce during the four-day Eidul Azha holiday, which begins on Friday.

But Arab League deputy secretary general Ahmed Ben Helli told AFP Monday that there is little chance of such a truce coming into effect. “Unfortunately, hope for implementing the truce during Eidul Azha is slim so far,” Ben Helli said on the sidelines of the World Energy Forum in Dubai. “The signs, both on the ground and by the government… do not point to the presence of any real will” to implement a ceasefire, he said.

Even as Ben Helli spoke, fierce fighting raged across Syria, including around Damascus, the northern city of Aleppo and the rebel-held town of Maaret al-Numan in the northwest province of Idlib. Reports also emerged of the abduction of two regime officials from Daraa in the south.

The United Nations has made plans to assemble a peacekeeping force for Syria if a ceasefire proposed by a special envoy takes hold, a top UN official said Monday. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous stressed however that planning was very tentative while fighting rages in Syria and would be dependent on the UN Security Council overcoming its bitter divisions on the 19-month-old conflict.

On the ground, there was no sign of a let-up in the violence. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes erupted in the morning when troops tried to storm the rebel-controlled town of Harasta on the outskirts of Damascus. According to the watchdog, Monday’s clashes were the fiercest seen yet around Wadi Daif base, which has been besieged for nearly two weeks by FSA fighters. The Observatory said a checkpoint near the base was in flames after it was attacked by the rebels, who killed at least nine soldiers.

In the northern commercial capital Aleppo, which has been battered by more than three months of clashes, insurgents blew up a bridge of a train line, used mainly to transport fuel, residents said. A military source confirmed the report.

Meanwhile, “terrorists” abducted general prosecutor Tayssir Smadi from outside the civil court in Daraa, SANA news agency said. The Observatory confirmed the report and said gunmen also kidnapped Baath Party member Mahmud Akrad.

The Observatory said at least 84 people, including 22 civilians were killed on Monday across Syria, adding to a toll of more than 34,000 people the group says have been killed since an anti-regime revolt erupted in March last year.

On the Jordan border, a Jordanian soldier was killed before dawn on Monday in a clash with militants trying to cross into Syria, Amman’s information minister Samih Maaytah told AFP.

Source: The Nation

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