Friday 24 November 2017

Syria truce ends as 47 die in blasts and gun battles

Adrian Blomfield Middle East Correspondent and Ruth Sherlock in Beirut

A car bomb in Damascus killed at least five people and gun battles were reported elsewhere in Syria as a four-day ceasefire began to unravel.

At least 47 deaths were reported in Syria on the first day of a truce called to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha yesterday.

Despite the clashes and defying many expectations, the ceasefire established a tenuous hold in parts of the country and, by the recent bloody standards of the conflict, the number of fatalities was considerably lower than normal.

In some of the most fiercely contested battlegrounds, including the cities of Aleppo and Idlib, rebels and government soldiers alike dropped their weapons.

Although it was hardly the Eid of old, a feast day when restaurants would be filled with celebrating patrons, some families took advantage of the respite to venture back to their homes and visit each other.

In some rebel-held districts of Aleppo, children were even seen playing on the streets.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, made a rare public appearance, attending prayers to mark the beginning of the holiday.

But by nightfall hopes that the truce could hold were fading. In one incident, a bomb exploded near a mosque and a temporary playground erected for the holiday in the Daf al-shouq district of southern Damascus. A number of children were among dozens wounded. Opposition fighters blamed the government and anger over the attack seemed likely to prompt retaliation.

"Everyone in this area is with the revolution," said Omar al-Homsi, a rebel with the Free Syrian Army. "The people hurt are children from this area. I don't think people would try to kill their own children."

The ceasefire had been brokered by the international envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, who hoped to use it as a platform for a broader peace deal. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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