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How will Syria mark Eid al-Adha? (+video)

In recognition of the Muslim holiday, a ceasefire is planned in Syria beginning Friday and running through Monday. UN aid agencies are hoping to use the window to provide aid to Syrians living in hard-to-reach parts of the country. 

By Mariam Karouny and Stephanie NebehayReuters / October 25, 2012

International peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi speaks at a news conference at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

REUTERS Mohamed Abd El Ghany

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BEIRUT/GENEVA

Damascus residents reported artillery barrages by Syrian troops hours before Friday's scheduled start of a ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

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The Syrian government has agreed to a ceasefire during the four-day Muslim Eid holiday starting this week, international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi says in Cairo.

They said that on Thursday night troops stationed on a mountain overlooking the Syrian capital targeted Hajar al-Aswad, a poor neighbourhood inhabited by refugees from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

"Consecutive artillery volleys from Qasioun shook my home," said Omar, an engineer who lives in al-Muhajereen district on a foothill of the mountain.

IN PICTURES – Inside Aleppo, Syria

On Thursday a Free Syrian Army commander gave qualified backing to the truce, proposed by U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but he demanded that President Bashar al-Assad free detainees. An Islamist group said it was not committed to the truce, but may halt operations if the army did.

Brahimi proposed the temporary truce to stem, however briefly, the bloodshed in a conflict which erupted as popular protests in March last year and has escalated into a civil war which activists say has killed more than 32,000 people.

The fighting pits mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad, from the Alawite faith which is linked to Shi'ite Islam, and threatens to draw in regional Sunni Muslim and Shi'ite powers and engulf the whole Middle East, Brahimi has warned.

"On the occasion of the blessed Eid al-Adha, the general command of the army and armed forces announces a halt to military operations on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, from Friday morning ... until Monday," an army statement read on state television said.

It reserved the right to respond if "the armed terrorist groups open fire on civilians and government forces, attack public and private properties, or use car bombs and explosives".

It would also respond to any reinforcement or re-supplying of rebel units, or smuggling of fighters from neighbouring countries "in violation of their international commitments to combat terrorism".

Qassem Saadeddine, head of the military council in Homs province and spokesman for the FSA joint command, said his fighters were committed to the truce.

"But we not allow the regime to reinforce its posts. We demand the release of the detainees, the regime should release them by tomorrow morning," he said.

Abu Moaz, spokesman for Ansar al-Islam, said the Islamist group doubted Assad's forces would observe the truce, though it might suspend operations if they did.

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