Fighting flared up Monday in Syria with new attempts of the army to remove the rebels from their strongholds, as an Arab diplomat expected there are slim chances of achieving a cease-fire this week.
On Sunday, after talks in Damascus with President Bashar al-Assad, the UN and Arab League envoy and Lakhdar Brahimi called on the belligerents to “unilaterally” cease fire “from today or tomorrow “for the Muslim feast of Eid Al-Adha, which is celebrated from October 26 to 29.
He stressed that it was a “personal initiative” and not a detailed plan of peace to stop the bloodshed that killed 34,000 people, according to an NGO.
On his part, Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmad bin Hilli said Monday that “unfortunately, the hope of establishing a truce in Syria for the holiday is weak.”
“The signs on the ground and the reaction of the Syrian government (…) do not show a real willingness to respond positively to this initiative,” he said.
Echoing these remarks, the Syrian regime’s troops, backed by tanks, have been trying to retake control on several towns, which fell into the hands of rebels in Idleb, Aleppo (north), in the province of Damascus, Deraa (south ) and Homs (center), said the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR).
Loyalist forces also bombarded with artillery Harasta twon where rebels are holed up near the Syrian capital, and tried to take it by storm, the NGO said in the wake of a new suicide car bomb in Damascus that killed at least 13 people.
In the province of Idleb (northwest), fighting took place near the military base in Wadi Deif, besieged for days by rebels, added the NGO.
This base is located on the eastern outskirts of the strategic town of Maaret al-Noomane, bombed since the dawn by the regime forces. Taken on October 9, this achievement helped the rebels to cut the main road used by the army to send reinforcements to the north.
Elsewhere, a Jordanian soldier was killed during clashes with Islamist militants trying to cross the border with Syria , confirmed Monday the Jordanian Minister of Information. Samih Maaytah said that it was the first death recorded in the ranks of the Jordanian army since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, in March 2011.
During the talks with Mr. Brahimi, Assad reiterated that any political initiative should be based on the “halt of terrorism (..) with the commitment of some countries involved to cease hosting, supporting and arming terrorists in Syria ”
In a related development, the Special Representative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Bogdanov, was on Monday in Iran to discuss Syria. Tehran and Moscow support the Assad regime and reject any foreign interference in the country.