Syria to cease operations until Monday amid fights

Syria to cease operations until Monday amid fights

GENEVA - Agence France-Presse
Syria to cease operations until Monday amid fights

Damaged buildings are seen after what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to al-Assad in Homs. REUTERS photo

Syria’s army said it will cease military operations today, in line with an internationally backed truce during Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, but that it reserves the right to respond to rebel aggression.

“Military operations will cease on Syrian territory as of Friday morning, until Monday,” the army said in a statement read on state television. “(The military) reserves the right to respond to continuing attacks on civilians and government forces by armed groups.” A peace initiative by U.N. and Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi calls on both sides to observe a truce during the four-day Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha that begins today. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander said fighters will commit to truce, but demands prisoner release.

The Free Syrian Army had previously said it would only agree to the temporary truce if regime troops cease fire first and that it doubts Damascus will stand by any commitment.

Rebels advance in Aleppo
But other rebels groups have refused to accept the proposal, with the radical Islamic Al-Nusra Front saying it will not lay down its weapons and denouncing the truce as a “trick.” Shortly before the announcement, there were no signs of a slowdown in the fighting, with rebels moving into a strategically important Kurdish neighborhood in the main battleground city of Aleppo.

Residents in Aleppo’s Ashrafiyeh district, a key area in the heights of the city on a route between its central and northern parts, said about 200 rebels had moved in to the area for the first time.

Fighting elsewhere saw rebels take control of a military post in the northeastern province of Raqa, regime forces bombing the Damascus suburb of Harasta and battles in the capital’s southern areas of Tadamun and Qadam, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The watchdog gave a toll of 42 people killed yesterday across Syria.