In Aleppo, Syria cease-fire was short-lived
Syrian rebels made advances in Aleppo last night. This morning, as the UN-brokered cease-fire went into effect, the Syrian Army retaliated.
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Regime and rebel forces engaged in clashes in Syria's¬†largest city today, breaking a cease-fire agreement only hours after it got underway.¬†
United Nations special envoy to Syria¬†Lakhdar Brahimi brokered the deal, timed to coincide with the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, in hopes that a temporary cessation of violence would provide a window for work to begin on negotiations.¬†
Rebel forces said the Syrian Army attacked this morning, the first day¬†of the four-day holiday, after rebels made advances in¬†the city last night for the first time in weeks. The government had previously said it would hold to the cease-fire only if the rebels did; some¬†rebel commanders said the same, while others refused to agree to any break in the fighting.
The Syrian Army intermittently shelled rebel forces and the two sides¬†exchanged gunfire on multiple fronts in Aleppo today, where the¬†government and the rebels have been locked in a fierce battle for¬†Syria's manufacturing and industrial center since July. However, the light clashes were nothing like the intense¬†battles that raged in the city weeks ago.
Not long after sunset, a large shell exploded over the¬†city, leaving a plume of black smoke. In the neighborhood of Karm el-Jebel, the¬†commander of the rebel brigade fighting in the area said regime forces¬†began attacking in the morning, and shelled rebel positions with two¬†tanks in the afternoon.
"There is no ceasefire," said Abu Yazem, commander of the rebels' Martyr Abu¬†Abdu Brigade and a former Syrian Army officer who asked that his full name not be used. "From early this¬†morning, they started to shoot at us."
He conferred with a small group of his fighters as darkness descended¬†on the completely deserted neighborhood. No lights shown from the¬†broken buildings, and the only sign of life was a family of stray cats¬†that mewed loudly while scurrying through the rubble-strewn streets. The crack of gunshots echoed in the darkened neighborhood.
Abu Ali Saqr, the head of the Saqr el Quraysh brigade, said his men¬†fought regime forces in Salaheddin¬†area. "The ceasefire is fake," he¬†says. "Last night a missile from the regime landed here," he said,¬†gesturing to the roof of the building where a rebel division is¬†headquartered.¬†
The fighting today came after the rebels made gains in three areas of¬†the city last night. Officers from the Liwa el Tawheed division said¬†the rebels took the districts of Ashrafieh and Bani Zeid, both Kurdish¬†areas, through a deal with the local armed Kurdish group, which has previously¬†refused to join the revolution.¬†The rebels and the armed¬†Kurdish group are negotiating over the fate of missing rebel soldiers¬†who disappeared after entering the Kurdish areas.
Though the rebels¬†have made gains, the¬†regime still has a firm hold on parts of the city.
In rebel-held parts of Aleppo earlier today, men waited with herds of sheep they¬†hoped residents would buy for the holiday. Traditionally, families buy¬†a sheep or another animal and slaughter it on the Eid, eating some of¬†the meat and giving the rest to the poor. But customers were few and¬†far between in the city. Many residents have fled the fighting, while¬†others can no longer afford to buy a sheep or don't wish to celebrate. According to opposition estimates, more than 30,000 people¬†have died since the uprising began in March 2011.