x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Ceasefire over Eid Al Adha 'pointless', says Syria

The Syrian government says a call by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN peace envoy, will not work because the rebels have no unified leadership to sign it.

BEIRUT // The Syrian government said a call by the international peace envoy for a ceasefire over Eid Al Adha is pointless because the rebels have no unified leadership to sign it.

Lakhdar Brahimi asked Iranian officials to help broker a truce during Eid later this month.

Syria's state-run Al Thawra newspaper said that the biggest obstacle to the truce was the lack of an authority to sign for the rebels.

The scores of brigades fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar Al Assad have no unified leadership, and many do not communicate with each other, it said.

Mr Brahimi, the joint UN-Arab League envoy, arrived in Beirut today for talks with Lebanese officials on how to resolve the crisis.

"We are striving to stop the bloodbath in Syria," Mr Brahimi's spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said as the envoy set off for talks with Lebanese leaders.

A government official said Mr Brahimi would meet President Michel Sleiman, Najib Mikati, the prime minister, and the parliament speaker Nabih Berri.

Meanwhile. Syrian warplanes blitzed rebel targets around the strategic town of Maaret Al Numan in the north while ground forces shelled opposition belts outside the capital Damascus, a watchdog said.

"The Syrian air force have made no less than six sorties early morning, pounding the villages of Deir Sharqi, Maarhtat and Bsida, east of Maaret Al Numan," which rebels captured a week ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Violent clashes also erupted in Maarhtat, where rebels attacked a six-tank convoy of government troops as it made its way to reinforce the Wadi Deif army base, the largest in the region. Maaret Al Numan is strategically located in Idlib province, on the road linking Damascus to embattled Aleppo, Syria's second city and commercial hub.

The rebel blockade of the road is preventing army reinforcements from reaching Aleppo, which has been the theatre of intense fighting for the past three months.

At least five people were killed across Aleppo province as government forces pounded the area and clashed with rebels who fired rockets into an army base, the Observatory said.

Further south, in Homs, troops shelled the rebel neighbourhoods of Khaldiyeh in the north and Juret Al Shiyah in the centre.

Violence also erupted in areas around Damascus, said the British-based Observatory which relies on a network of activists, lawyers and medics on the ground inside Syria for its information.

Rockets rained on Douma, the capital's rebel-held northeastern suburb which was also rattled by gunfire, it said, adding that the southern suburb of Artus and Yabrud in the north were also shelled by troops.

Heavy clashes erupted in the town of Nabk north of Damascus.

Activists say more than 33,000 have been killed in 19 months of violence in Syria.