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Syrian cease-fire 'well and truly over,' observers say

Fighting continued across Syria on Saturday after a truce meant to mark the Muslim Eid al-Adha religious holiday disintegrated. Observers say that close to 150 people have died in clashes across the country since Friday.

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad continued their bombardment of Damascus and cities in the north of the country on Saturday as rebels launched several reprisal attacks, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

The truce, set to mark the Muslim religious holiday, which started on Friday, was conditionally agreed by the regime and the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and raised the prospect of the first real halt to fighting after 19 months of conflict in the country.

As fighting continued, rebel forces and a monitoring group declared the cease-fire well and truly over.

"The truce is dead," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights told the AFP news agency. "We can no longer talk of a truce."

The head of the FSA military council in the northern city of Aleppo, Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi, said "there was no doubt the cease-fire initiative," proposed by the UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, "had collapsed."

"This is the failure of Brahimi. This initiative was dead before it started," the rebel military commander told AFP.

'Cease-fire violations'

The Eid al-Adha holiday started with fighting, which slowed down on Friday. State television footage showed President Assad smiling and greeting worshippers at a mosque in Damascus, but the conflict quickly worsened.

Watch video 01:06

Fighting in Syria despite agreed ceasefire

SANA, the Syrian state news agency, reported dozens of "cease-fire violations" by rebel forces since the beginning of the truce on Friday, including claims that they set off a car bomb in front of a Christian church in the city of Deir al-Zor in the east of the country.

Activists in Deir al-Zoir and Aleppo said that mortar bombs were being fired by government troops into residential areas.

Damascus residents posted videos on the Internet showing fighter jets bombing the suburbs of Erbin and Harasta, where eight people were killed according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.

"This was the first fighter jet air strike since the declaration" of a cease-fire for the four-day holiday, a spokesman said.

The rights group, a key observer in the clashes, announced that 146 people had been killed in fighting since Friday.

Forces loyal to Assad and rebel groups conditionally agreed to a truce called upon by Brahimi in the lead up to Eid, but both reserved the right to respond to attacks.

Brahimi and other international officials had hoped the cease-fire would lead to a permanent truce between the two groups, which may have allowed for negotiations to end the conflict.

New front opening

Observers in the area also raised concerns of the possibility of a new front opening in the conflict after reports suggested that clashes between rebels and Kurdish militia on Friday left more than 30 people dead and 200 captured.

The Observatory announced that fighting between rebel groups and the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the Syrian offshoot of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party, took place in the area of Ashrafiveh in Aleppo.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that more than 32,000 people have died in the 19-month conflict.

jlw/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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