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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Syria Declares Eid Cease-Fire

October 25, 2012

by VOA News

The Syrian army says it will suspend military operations to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, declaring a cease-fire from Friday morning to Monday but adding that it reserves the right to respond to rebel attacks and bombings.

In an announcement read on state TV late Thursday, the Syrian military said it will act if "terrorist groups [are] trying to reinforce their positions by arming themselves and getting reinforcements." It also warned against neighboring countries facilitating the smuggling of fighters across borders during that period.

Rebels agree

A commander for the rebel Free Syrian Army said his fighters would commit to the truce, but would respond to any attacks. Both sides have violated previous cease-fires after agreeing to them. However, an Islamist group active in Syria, Ansar al-Islam, is reported to have said that its fighters will not commit to the truce.

Earlier, anti-government forces took control of several neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo.

Rebel commander Bassam al-Dada said his fighters advanced on two central areas in the country's largest city, including Salaheddin, where battles have raged for months. In Aleppo's northern Ashrafiyeh district, residents reported that about 200 rebels moved into the area for the first time.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said nine civilians were killed and 15 wounded in Ashrafiyeh by five mortars fired "from an unknown source."

The last word about the truce from Syrian authorities was on Wednesday, when the foreign ministry in Damascus said the government was still weighing whether it will participate in and observe the cease-fire.

No quick solution

U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said Syria and some rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad did agree to halt fighting during the holiday. Brahimi said he hopes a multi-day cease-fire will lead to a longer truce as part of a political process.

However, he later told the U.N. Security Council there would be no quick overall solution to the fighting in Syria, and warned that another failed attempt to end the violence would worsen the 19-month conflict and extend it to other countries.

The Security Council expressed support for the cease-fire and asked regional and international powers to "use their influence" to see that it takes effect.

A cease-fire deal brokered by Brahimi's predecessor as special envoy, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, fell apart shortly after it took effect in April.

Opposition activists reported shelling by government forces Thursday near Damascus, as well as clashes between rebels and the army in Daraa province.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Monday he was making preparations for a Syria peacekeeping force if a cease-fire takes hold.

U.N. human rights investigators said Thursday they want to meet with Assad as part of their probe into possible rights violations committed in Syria.

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