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Syrian Regime Announces Ceasefire, Quickly Violates It by Attacking Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Children walk past the rubble of damaged buildings on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in the rebel held Douma neighbourhood of Damascus, Syria July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Bassam Khabieh

Beirut-The Syrian regime violated on Wednesday a temporary three-day Eid ceasefire only one hour after calling on the opposition to commit to it.

The regime had called for a ceasefire for the entire country coinciding with the start of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, starting from Wednesday noon to Saturday.

However, on Wednesday afternoon, regime forces began shelling areas controlled by the opposition in West Aleppo during prayer time, killing three civilians and injuring dozens others, including children.

Regime forces also attempted to advance in Eastern Ghouta and achieve a breakthrough in the countryside of Damascus, amid intensive shelling and airstrikes.

The Syrian Free Army had announced it would abide by the ceasefire.

“We, the armed revolutionary groups in Syria, welcome any effort towards a ceasefire for the happy Eid al-Fitr period. We pledge to abide by it so long as the other side does the same,” said the statement, posted on the Twitter account of a main opposition leader, Reuters reported.

A Syrian military source with the opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Free Syrian Army and its moderate allies were ready to respect the ceasefire, only if regime forces abide by it.

“The opposition has an interest in respecting a ceasefire during the Eid holiday to offer Syrians the least of joy despite all their woes. Our position is clear, if regime forces stop their air and ground assaults, then we will respect the ceasefire, except for self-defense,” the source said.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the Syrian regime’s announcement of the 72-hour ceasefire on all Syrian territories, but said he was working with Russia and others to transform it to a lasting truce.

“We very much welcome the Syrian Army declaration of the period of quiet in celebration of and in honor of Eid,” Kerry said during a visit to Georgia. “We are trying very hard to grow these current discussions in a longer-lasting, real, enforceable, cessation of hostilities.”

Kerry said: “We are engaged right now in ongoing discussions with various parties, including the Russians, regarding the possibility of extending this. So is 72 hours enough? The answer is very simple: no. Is 72 hours more welcome than nothing? The answer is yes.”

Commenting on the political meaning of the truce, member of the Syrian National Council, Ahmad Ramadan said: “Announcing a ceasefire means that Russia is exerting pressure on the regime, after the latest changes in Moscow’s position and the absence of a Russian air support during the battles launched by the Syrian regime and its allies in the countryside of southern Aleppo and the Syrian coast.”

Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Iran and (Hezbollah) lost several new positions during the battles of Aleppo, without making any progress.” He said regime forces needed now to rearrange the ranks of their fighting forces, which are in a very bad situation.

Also, legal consultant of the Syrian Free Army Osama Abu Zeid told Asharq Al-Awsat that the truce was not a decision made by Bashar Assad’s regime, but is the outcome of a Russian-U.S. agreement reached in the late hours of Tuesday night.

Abu Zeid said: “The regime is trying to politically benefit from this agreement and show a humanitarian commitment, but, the truth is very different because the regime has not stopped shelling Aleppo, Douma and Eastern Ghouta.”

Jaish al Islam, an opposition group, said in a separate statement that despite the announced truce, regime and allied forces had attacked the town of Maydaa in the Eastern Ghouta area east of Damascus. Maydaa is under the control of Jaish al Islam, which is a member of the official Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC).