Attacks continue during failed holiday truce in Syria
BEIRUT — The declared four-day holiday truce between the warring factions in Syria ended on Monday much as it had begun — with airstrikes, artillery barrages and other firefights around the country that made a mockery of the cease-fire.
Even to the last, citizens caught up in violence held out hope for a brief lull.
“I told myself I should take advantage of this truce to go visit some relatives,” said a woman willing to be identified only by her nickname, Um Samer, 32. Instead, as she described via Skype, a walk down the street from her house in the Damascus suburb of Hajar al-Aswad was interrupted on Monday when a government missile slammed into a minibus about 200 yards away from her.
“I saw kids cut in pieces and a driver with half his body gone,” she said. “How is it that we don’t have any value? Are we not human like other people?”
That was just one of the attacks Monday in what activists called one of the worst days of air raids against the suburbs of the capital since the uprising began as a peaceful protest movement in March 2011.
The strikes against Hajar al-Aswad left at least 10 people dead, eight of them in a minibus collective taxi, and many wounded, according to the Local Coordinating Committee and other opposition activists.
The government also accused the opposition of violating the cease-fire in multiple places, including exploding a car bomb in Jaramana, a Damascus neighborhood that is home to various minorities who still back the government. At least six people were killed and 50 wounded by the bomb, said SANA, the official news agency.
They were among scores of new victims of the violence during the putative lull. Clashes were reported scattered throughout the country from Daraa in the south to Deir el-Zour in the east to the embattled northern city of Aleppo. Among other firefights in that city, Kurdish fighters in the neighborhood of Ashrafiyah continued to battle to prevent opposition militiamen from taking over their quarter.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the envoy for the United Nations and the Arab League who tried to negotiate the truce, expressed disappointment that it had collapsed virtually from the start, although the fighting seemed to slow Friday.
“I am terribly sorry,” Brahimi told a news conference in Moscow, “that this appeal has not been heard at the level we hoped it would.” He will continue working to try to reduce the level of violence, he said, demanding greater international pressure on both sides in Syria.
Brahimi was visiting Moscow and Beijing, the main international backers of President Bashar Assad, ahead of presenting a plan to the Security Council next month toward a negotiated settlement. It will be based on an agreement that all five permanent members of the Security Council reached in Geneva last June.