BEIRUT/GENEVA - Damascus residents reported artillery barrages by Syrian
troops hours before Friday's scheduled start of a ceasefire to mark the
Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha.
They said that on Thursday night
troops stationed on a mountain overlooking the Syrian capital targeted
Hajar al-Aswad, a poor neighborhood inhabited by refugees from the Golan
Heights. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
artillery volleys from Qasioun shook my home," said Omar, an engineer
who lives in al-Muhajereen district on a foothill of the mountain.
Thursday a Free Syrian Army commander gave qualified backing to the
truce, proposed by UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but he demanded
that Syrian President Bashar Assad free detainees. An Islamist group
said it was not committed to the truce, but may halt operations if the
Brahimi proposed the temporary truce to stem, however
briefly, the bloodshed in a conflict which erupted as popular protests
in March last year and has escalated into a civil war which activists
say has killed more than 32,000 people.
The fighting pits mainly
Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, from the Alawite faith which is
linked to Shi'ite Islam, and threatens to draw in regional Sunni Muslim
and Shi'ite powers and engulf the whole Middle East, Brahimi has warned.
the occasion of the blessed Id al-Adha, the general command of the
army and armed forces announces a halt to military operations on the
territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, from Friday morning ... until
Monday," an army statement read on state television said.
reserved the right to respond if "the armed terrorist groups open fire
on civilians and government forces, attack public and private
properties, or use car bombs and explosives."
It would also
respond to any reinforcement or re-supplying of rebel units, or
smuggling of fighters from neighboring countries "in violation of their
international commitments to combat terrorism".
Saadeddine, head of the military council in Homs province and spokesman
for the FSA joint command, said his fighters were committed to the
we not allow the regime to reinforce its posts. We demand the release
of the detainees, the regime should release them by tomorrow morning,"
Abu Moaz, spokesman for Ansar al-Islam, said the
Islamist group doubted Assad's forces would observe the truce, though it
might suspend operations if they did.
"We do not care about this
truce. We are cautious. If the tanks are still there and the
checkpoints are still there then what is the truce?" he said of the
organization, which includes several brigades fighting in the capital
and Damascus province.
Brahimi's predecessor, former UN chief
Kofi Annan, declared a ceasefire in Syria on April 12, but it soon
became a dead letter, along with the rest of his six-point peace plan.
Violence has intensified since then, with daily death tolls compiled by opposition monitoring groups often exceeding 200.