Jets hit Syrian town as envoy flies in on truce bid
20 October, 2012
MAARET AL-NUMAN: Syrian jets hammered a rebel town on Friday, the second day of an assault in which the regime is accused of using cluster bombs, as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi landed in Damascus to press for a truce.
Brahimi is bidding to secure the ceasefire during the four-day Eidul Azha holiday from October 26, hoping it will bring a longer cessation in the 19-month conflict that has already killed more than 34,000 people.
"We will have discussions here with the government, the political parties and civil society about the situation in Syria," Brahimi said at the Damascus airport.
"We will talk about the need to reduce the current violence and about whether it is possible to stop for the occasion of Eidul Azha."
UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Arab League head Nabil al-Arabi urged the sides "to heed the call of the special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi for a ceasefire and a cessation of all violence in all its forms during the period of the Eidul Azha".
Such a truce should last a long time, they said, as it "could create the space to allow a peaceful political process that realises the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for democracy, equality and justice".
Brahimi was received at the Damascus airport by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad and was scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Walid Muallem today (Saturday).
He is expected to hold talks with Assad at a later date.
Damascus says it is ready to discuss the ceasefire proposal with Brahimi. The opposition says it would welcome any truce but insists the regime must first halt its daily bombardments.
On the ground, rebels and loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad were locked in battle for the north-western town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking Syria's two biggest cities.
Syrian forces again battered the town a day after strikes on a residential area killed dozens, nearly half of them children, rescuers told an AFP reporter at the scene.
The military wants to regain control of the highway to re-supply units under fire in Aleppo for the past three months and assist 250 troops besieged in their Wadi Deif base. Fighter jets over-flew at high altitude before nose-diving and striking targets on the town's outskirts, as helicopter gunships buzzed the area, the correspondent said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aircraft concentrated their firepower on rebel camps near Wadi Deif. Rebels showed AFP debris from cluster bombs they accused the air force of dropping on residential areas, as well as dozens of others that failed to explode on impact. The HRW has accused Syria of using cluster bombs, a charge denied by the military, which insists it does not possess them.