Photo: AP Images
Damascus shook with loud explosions on Monday as Syrian warplanes reportedly launched their heaviest air strikes yet after a failed bid to halt the country’s violence for a Muslim holiday.The blasts, heard coming from several districts, were among the most intense in the capital since the beginning of Syria’s 19-month conflict, an AFP correspondent said.
They were followed by a car bombing that state television said killed at least 10 people in the predominantly Christian and Druze area of Jaramana, just outside Damascus.
The fresh violence came as world powers looked to pick up the pieces of the failed ceasefire effort, with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Moscow and due in China later this week, as he prepares to present new ideas to the UN Security Council.
Monday, the final day of the Eid al-Adha holiday, saw the Syrian military launch 34 air strikes across the country over just three hours of the morning, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“These are the heaviest air strikes since warplanes were first deployed over the summer,” the watchdog’s director, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.
After talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Brahimi lamented the failure of the truce, telling reporters: “The situation is bad and getting worse.”
Warplanes struck at least eight targets in Damascus, the Observatory said, with attacks focused on rebel positions in a northeastern belt of the capital where the regime has been battling to take over opposition strongholds.
A Syrian security official told AFP the military was trying to prevent the rebels from boosting their hold on the area.
“The army is conducting raids on agricultural lands and orchards around the capital because the rebels are trying to regroup and to strengthen their positions there,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The four-day truce proposed by Brahimi for Eid that started on Friday fell apart amid clashes, shelling and car bombings only hours after it had been due to take effect.
Nearly 400 people have died since the start of Eid according to the Observatory, which relies on a countrywide network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals. It says its tolls take into account civilian, military, and rebel casualties.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday he was “deeply disappointed” by the collapse of the truce and urged all sides “to live up to their obligations and promote a ceasefire”.
UN diplomats say Brahimi was realistic about the ceasefire’s chances and is now looking ahead to new efforts to tackle the crisis.
Diplomats told AFP that he will go back to the Security Council with fresh proposals in November after the visits to Russia and China – who have repeatedly vetoed resolutions threatening action against Assad’s regime.
Russia has blamed the rebels for the failure to contain the violence, with deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov charging that “the opposition foiled the ceasefire,” making clear its “intent to continue violence.”
Regime forces and the main rebel Free Syrian Army have blamed each other for the ceasefire’s collapse, with both saying they have only responded to attacks.
In a statement on Sunday, the army accused the rebels of “brazen violations” of the truce and vowed to hit them “with an iron fist … to save the nation from their evils.”
Monday also saw heavy clashes erupting in the northern commercial hub Aleppo, where fighting has raged since mid-July, residents said.
The Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011 as a peaceful movement, has steadily militarised after being met with brutal state repression and has left more than 35,000 people dead, according to rights groups.
Most rebels, like the population, are Sunni Muslims in a country dominated by a minority regime of Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
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