Syria violence spoils hope for Eid truce

Car bombing in Damascus and fighting in several provinces point to violations of Brahimi’s ceasefire by both sides.

A powerful car bomb in Damascus and fighting between government troops and opposition fighters elsewhere are testing a shaky temporary truce in the Syrian conflict on the occasion of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

State television on Friday said, quoting preliminary figures, that the “terrorist car bomb” in the capital had killed five people and wounded 32 others.

Opposition activists said the bomb went off near a makeshift children’s playground built for Friday’s holiday in the southern Daf al-Shok district of Damascus.

Sean Maguire, of  the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera that the organisation was very concerned about the humanitarian situation on the ground.

“We had hoped that the violence would diminish and people would have been able to get out of their homes, and shop and get medical care … perhaps contact loved ones that they had lost. The situation is very, very bad,” he said.

“We have been able to deliver some aid, but we would have liked to have gotten to other places.”

Meanwhile, more fighting was reported around Syria as both sides violated the Eid ceasefire brokered by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, but activists say that the violence was far less intense than usual.

Clashes reportedly took place around a military base near the northern, opposition-held town of Maarat al-Numan, in a rebel-controlled neighbourhoods of Homs and in different parts of the northern Aleppo province.

The Syrian military said it had responded to attacks by fighters on army positions, in line with its announcement on Thursday that it would cease military activity during the four-day holiday, but reserved the right to react to rebel actions.

Widespread support

Brahimi’s ceasefire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad’s main foreign allies.

Sources say Brahimi hopes to build on the truce to calm a 19-month-old conflict that has killed an estimated 32,000 people and worsened instability in the Middle East.

Syrians in different parts of the country took advantage of the temporary lull in fighting to hold anti-regime protests after morning prayers to mark the start of Eid.

Protests took place in the northeastern city of al-Raqqa, where security forces fired tear gas, and in the southern Deraa province, where three people were injured as police fired live rounds to disperse demonstrators.

Activists said demonstrations also took place in Damascus and its suburbs, in Aleppo, the eastern province of Deir al-Zor and in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Anti-Assad protests

In the village of al-Habit in Idlib province, protesters chanted against Assad: “Traitor, give up, you have destroyed Syria”.

In the Deraa provincial town of Dael, about 100 demonstrators were seen chanting anti-regime slogans on the main square, in a video that activists posted online.

 Al Jazeera talks to the Red Cross on the situation in Syria

The 47-year-old Assad, who has vowed to defeat what he says are fighters backed by Syria’s enemies abroad, was shown on state television attending Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque.

The prime minister, information minister and foreign minister, as well as the mufti, Syria’s top Muslim religious leader, were filmed praying alongside Assad.

The footage showed Assad shaking hands and exchanging Eid greetings with other worshippers afterwards.

The truce breaches by both sides swiftly marred Syrians’ hopes of peacefully celebrating Eid al-Adha, the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

The imam of Mecca’s Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims to take “practical and urgent” steps to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

“The world should bear responsibility for this prolonged and painful disaster [in Syria] and the responsibility is greater for the Arabs and Muslims who should call on each other to support the oppressed against the oppressor,” said Sheikh Saleh Mohammed al-Taleb in his sermon during Eid prayers.

“The solution should be practical and urgent because the oppressor becomes even more fierce as the days pass,” he added.