Syria: Little hope for Eid ceasefire as conflict spills across borders

An Arab League official indicates a cease-fire is unlikely as Syrian President Assad has signaled little support. Meanwhile, the conflict is showing signs of spilling into Lebanon and Jordan.

Manu Brabo/AP
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover within the confines of a damaged building during clashes with the Syrian Army in Karmal Jabl district, Aleppo, Syria, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.

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An Arab League official says hopes for a cease-fire in Syria over the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha are "weak," as President Bashar al-Assad shows little indication of support for the concept, despite his words in favor of a ceasefire.

Ahmed Ben Helli, deputy secretary general of the Arab League, told Reuters that "The indications that are now apparent and the government's reaction ... do not show any signs of a real desire to implement this cease-fire." The proposal, brought to Mr. Assad and the rebels over the weekend by United Nations special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, would entail an end to fighting beginning Oct. 26 and and lasting through the weekend, during the holiday of Eid al-Adha. 

"We are days away from Eid," Mr. Ben Helli said. "We hope the situation changes and the government and opposition respond even a little bit to this door for negotiations."

Mr. Brahimi met separately with Syrian rebel leaders and Assad over the weekend, reports Deutsche Welle. Although the opposition is said to be in favor of a ceasefire, DW writes that Assad was less receptive to the idea and conditioned his regime's acquiescence to a political solution to the conflict on an end to foreign powers' arming of the rebels.

Assad called for a "halt to terrorism" as well as "a commitment on the part of certain implicated countries to stop harboring, supporting and arming terrorists" in Syria, state-run television reported.

Violence continued unabated in Damascus and Aleppo over the weekend as Brahimi pushed for a peaceful resolution, reports Al Arabiya. The rebel-controlled town of Harasta, on the outskirts of Damascus, was the scene of ongoing clashes as regime troops attacked the city, killing "scores" of rebels and civilians. And fighting continued across Aleppo, where rebels and regime troops have been clashing for three months. The London-based opposition group the Syrian Observation for Human Rights says that 173 people, including 65 civilians, were killed nationwide yesterday.

The weekend also showed signs that the conflict in Syria is spilling across its borders into neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.

The New York Times reports that protests broke out in Lebanon yesterday, with isolated clashes with security continuing early this morning, after the funeral of Lebanese security chief and anti-Syrian politician Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, who was killed in a car bombing on Oct. 19. The Times writes that the protests "exposed the undercurrent of tension buzzing through Lebanon for much of the 19 months since the uprising began against Mr. Assad’s government. The eruption on Sunday reflected a simmering anger over the killing of Sunni civilians in Syria by allies of Mr. Assad’s Alawite sect."

And early today, a Jordanian soldier was killed when a group of armed militants attempted to cross the Jordanian border into Syria, reports Agence France-Presse. Several of the gunmen were captured, Information and Culture Minister Samih Maaytah told AFP, but not before they killed the corporal.

The border shooting comes on the heels of yesterday's announcement that Jordan had arrested 11 "Al Qaeda" suspects who had planned to launch a coordinated attack on civilian and foreign diplomatic targets in the Jordanian capital of Amman, reports The Daily Telegraph. Using arms smuggled into Jordan from Syria, the militants planned to launch suicide bombings against a pair of shopping malls in Amman. After security forces responded to the attacks, the militants would than assault their primary target, the city's affluent Abdoun district, where many Western diplomats are based.

The 11 suspects are all believed to be Jordanian nationals, and are said to have been instructed by Al Qaeda explosive experts in Iraq. The Telegraph notes that the late Abu Musab al Zarqawi, former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was Jordanian.

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