BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops shelled rebellious suburbs of Damascus and clashed with rebel fighters in several other areas of the country Sunday, the third day of what was meant to be a four-day holiday truce, activists said.
A U.N-backed truce declared for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha has so far failed to take hold, with fighting reported from the start. Activists said more than 150 people were killed Friday, the start of the holiday, and more than 120 people on the second day, on par with previous daily casualty tolls.
The cease-fire was seen as a long shot. The international mediator in Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, failed to get firm commitments from all combatants. At least one rebel-linked radical Islamic group, Jabhat al-Nusra, rejected the truce outright.
The truce was called as the two sides were battling over strategic targets in a largely deadlocked civil war. This includes a military base near a main north-south highway, the main supply route to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where regime forces and rebels have been fighting house-to-house. It appears each side feared the other could exploit a lull to improve its positions.
With the unraveling of the cease-fire, it’s unclear what the international community can do next. The holiday truce marked its first attempt in six months to reduce the bloodshed in Syria, where activists say more than 35,000 people have been killed in 19 months.
Brahimi has not said what would follow a cease-fire. Talks between Assad and the Syrian opposition on a peaceful transition are blocked, since the Syrian leader’s opponents say they will not negotiate unless he resigns, a step he has refused to take.
In renewed fighting Sunday, regime troops shelled the eastern Damascus suburbs of Arbeen, Harasta and Zamalka to try to drive out rebels there, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which compiles information from activists in Syria.
Another activist group, the Local Coordination Committees, said regime forces shelled Arbeen and Harasta, adding that eight people were killed Sunday in Damascus and its suburbs.
Both groups also reported regime airstrikes in the area. However, amateur video posted online Sunda appeared ambiguous. One video showed two huge clouds of smoke rising from what was said to be Arbeen, and the sound of an airplane could be heard in the background. However, it was not clear whether the video showed the aftermath of shelling or an airstrike.
The video appeared consistent with Associated Press reporting in the area.
In Douma, another Damascus suburb, rebels wrested three positions from regime forces, including an unfinished high-rise building that had been used by regime snipers, according to the Observatory and Mohammed Saeed, a local activist.
Fighting was also reported near Maaret al-Numan, a town along the Aleppo-Damascus highway rebels had seized earlier this month. Opposition fighters have also besieged a nearby military base and repeatedly attacked government supply convoys heading there.
The Syrian government has accused the rebels of violating the cease-fire from the start. The state-run news agency SANA said opposition fighters carried out attacks in a number of areas, including in Aleppo and the eastern town of Deir el-Zour.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.