News / Middle East

Hopes Dim for Syrian Cease-Fire

Residents hold a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib October 19, 2012.
Residents hold a banner during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel near Idlib October 19, 2012.
VOA News
A Syrian rights group says government warplanes have attacked a strategic rebel-held northern town in the latest setback to international efforts to secure a cease-fire during a Muslim holiday that begins this week.

The opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday's air strikes targeted Maaret al-Numan, a town that rebels seized earlier this month, effectively cutting a highway linking the capital Damascus with Syria's northern financial hub of Aleppo.

The Observatory also said Syrian rebels battled government forces holed up in a nearby military base that has been under a rebel siege for days.

The rights group said neither government nor rebel forces appear to be making any preparations to adopt a cease-fire during the Eid al-Adha holiday that begins Friday, as proposed by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Envoy ends visit

The envoy ended a four-day visit to Damascus on Tuesday without winning a public commitment to the truce from the government. Syrian opposition and rebel leaders also have expressed skepticism about a truce.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said he is making preparations for a Syria peacekeeping force if a cease-fire takes hold. But he said it is premature to discuss the details.

Syrian state television said President Bashar al-Assad decreed a new amnesty on Tuesday, pardoning those who committed crimes before October 23.

The Syrian government has made numerous amnesty offers since an opposition uprising began in March 2011, typically stipulating that the pardons do not cover those who took part in killings.

  • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
  • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
  • Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Eid al-Adha prayers, Dara, Syria, October 26, 2012.
  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) chats with people after prayers for Eid al-Adha at al-Afram Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012.
  • Members of the Free Syrian Army watch for snipers during fighting against pro-government forces in Harem, Idlib, Syria, October 25, 2012.
  • Smoke is seen after pro-government forces shelled the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
  • A member of the Free Syrian Army stands guard during a shelling by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette as he guards his position in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
  • Residents are seen near damaged buildings at Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib, Syria, October 23, 2012.
  • Children play on swings in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
  • Turkish boys look through a shattered window after an anti-aircraft shell fired from Syria hit a health center across the border in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 23, 2012.
  • A building that anti-government sources said was destroyed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces is seen in Saqba, Damascus, Syria, October 22, 2012.

In other developments Tuesday, Turkish media said a Syrian anti-aircraft shell hit a Turkish health center in Hatay province near the Syrian border, but caused no casualties. Turkey has fired back at Syria several times in recent weeks after previous cases of Syrian fire landing on the Turkish side of the border.

Refugee crisis grows

Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said Lebanon has become the third country in the region to host more than 100,000 registered refugees from the Syrian civil war. The UNHCR previously reported more than 100,000 Syrian refugees in both Turkey and Jordan.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said recent unrest in Lebanon has temporarily disrupted the agency's operations in the country, including the registration of Syrian refugees in Tripoli, Akar, Beirut and Sidon in southern Lebanon.

"Just to note what the refugees tell us in Lebanon," she said. "As you know, none of them are living in refugee camps. They are living in local communities and they are struggling to make ends meet because they do live on the open economy.

"And, they complain of high prices," she said. "We are trying to help them through the provision of assistance depending on their circumstance. But, that is a common complaint, a common concern in Lebanon."

Fleming said U.N. refugee workers hope to resume the operations as soon as conditions allow.

About 1.5 million people are displaced inside Syria. The U.N. refugee agency says the displaced live in sub-standard public shelters and many do not receive essential aid because of security constraints.

VOA's Michael Lipin contributed to this report from Washington and Lisa Schlein from Geneva.

  • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
  • A crowd gathers in front of damaged buildings after a car bomb exploded at Daf al-Shok district, in Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012, in this photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.
  • Demonstrators hold opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, after Eid al-Adha prayers, Dara, Syria, October 26, 2012.
  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) chats with people after prayers for Eid al-Adha at al-Afram Mosque, Damascus, Syria, October 26, 2012.
  • Members of the Free Syrian Army watch for snipers during fighting against pro-government forces in Harem, Idlib, Syria, October 25, 2012.
  • Smoke is seen after pro-government forces shelled the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
  • A member of the Free Syrian Army stands guard during a shelling by pro-government forces on the outskirts of Atareb, in Idlib governorate, Syria, October 24, 2012.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter smokes a cigarette as he guards his position in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
  • Residents are seen near damaged buildings at Marat al-Numan, near the northern province of Idlib, Syria, October 23, 2012.
  • Children play on swings in Aleppo, Syria, October 23, 2012.
  • Turkish boys look through a shattered window after an anti-aircraft shell fired from Syria hit a health center across the border in Reyhanli, Hatay province, Turkey, October 23, 2012.
  • A building that anti-government sources said was destroyed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces is seen in Saqba, Damascus, Syria, October 22, 2012.

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by: kannan mahathevan
October 23, 2012 7:52 PM
The banner they are holding on the picture is a prediction!. This so called ceasefire issue is exactly what the world powers worked-out hand handed over to the Genocidal regime in Sri Lanka in 2009, that gave the perpetrators more time to prepare for chemical attack and so on. Mr. Assad is already in possession such dangerous weapons, so the Powers and the UN is simply giving him enough time to prepare for the launch. When everything is over Mr. Ban Ki Mon will be asked fly over the are to asses the damage. Justice may come at a later time, but what's the point), half of Syria would have perished by then. Prevention is better than the forthcoming cure!, may be the world powers want to reduce the number of Syrians?

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
October 23, 2012 4:13 PM
Only if Assad knows the fight is beyound a sieze fire,he had his chance from his fellow Arab members but instead followed Putin Russia's call not to,and now let's see how Putin keeps him in power against the daily grown resentment,am just waiting to see.

by: Orhan Fazlioglu from: İstanbul, Turkey
October 23, 2012 10:38 AM
Almost everyone claims that Esad's days are numbered because he has been cornered somehow.Even Russia is in favour of an agreement on which parties will probably come to terms with. I believe if this meaningless war goes on it will take such a heavier tolls that noone can foresee.In the end, those involved in this carnage will feel deep remorse.Whereas, a democratic Syria will be more prosperous and independent in the region.An agreement on a prosperous and democratic Syria doesn't seem too far because no one can stand against the tide of people's demands to build more democratic and prosperous country.

Today Syria gives an image of a country whose people are rather tired of false commitments and long for a new spirit to build a nation in harmony with modern human rights.Syrian people will make this come true despite Esad's resistance.Esad should care about his people's demands and allow the democratic attempts to flourish,otherwise, not only he but also his country will pay the bill with more destruction.We saw the same picture in Iraq. Saddam Husein allowed his country to turn into shambles because of his greed for an absolute power.I hope Esad will not repeat the same mistake and let his country fall into ruins.In the eve of Edha,I hope the clashes will stop, no more tears and blood will be shed.My sincere prayers are with all who commit themselves to this sublime effort.May Allah help those who strive to stop this ugly war taking the lives of innocent babies and elderly people.Let's pray together if we have no further means except for prayers.

by: Michael from: USA
October 23, 2012 9:43 AM
Peacekeeping takes the first chance that comes along. It is freedom to have the Eid feast. This freedom is the first talk I have heard about a chance at cease-fire

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