Middle East

Syria shelling further undermines Eid al-Adha 'truce'

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Media captionFootage from activists appears to show explosions and fierce gun battles

The Syrian army has heavily shelled several areas of the country, say activists, despite a ceasefire marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Shelling and shooting were reported in the capital, Damascus, in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and in rebel-held areas of northern Aleppo province.

The UN-brokered ceasefire came into force on Friday but was soon shattered by fighting and car bomb in Damascus.

Nearly 150 people died on the first day of the truce, activists say.

The daily death toll reported by activist groups has regularly exceeded 150 in recent weeks.

An activist in the Douma suburb of the capital said the army had started firing mortars in the early morning on Saturday.

"I have counted 15 explosions in one hour and we already have two civilians killed," Mohammed Doumany told Reuters news agency.

"I can't see any difference from before the truce and now," he added.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights - one of the most prominent groups monitoring Syrian casualties - said eight people had been killed so far on Saturday, and that government warplanes had been seen flying over Aleppo.

'Failure for Brahimi'

The four-day ceasefire had been negotiated by UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who hoped it would lay the groundwork for a full peace process.

But both rebels and the army said they would observe the truce only if the other side held their fire.

A commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo, which holds parts of the city, said the truce was a failure for Mr Brahimi, and had been "dead before it started".

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Media captionSyrian state TV showed devastation at the Damascus blast site

"I was on several fronts yesterday and the army did not stop shelling," Abdel Jabbar al-Okaidi told AFP news agency, adding that the FSA had carried out only defensive action to protect civilians.

Mr Okaidi said the Syrian people had become "guinea pigs".

"Every time there is an envoy who tries an initiative, while we know the regime will not respect it."

The Syrian army also said it had only responded in defence to attacks by rebels.

The BBC's James Reynolds, on the Turkey-Syria border, says there were many weak points in the ceasefire so no-one was expecting a sudden halt in violence.

But it now appears to be only nominal and may not continue to be practical, our correspondent adds.

Both sides still believe that force is their best option for winning the conflict, he says - the government because it has the heavier weaponry and support from Russia, and the rebels because they believe they have the backing of the public.

On Friday, a car bomb exploded near a playground in Daf al-Shouk, a residential area in southern Damascus.

State TV reported that five people were killed and more than 30 wounded. It blamed the attack on "terrorists".

Activists said the bombing appeared to target civilians in a largely Sunni area where some have supported the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Later, a car-bomb attack in the southern city of Deraa killed three soldiers, said the observatory.

According to activists, more than 35,000 people have been killed since the uprising began, while the UN estimates that at least 20,000 have died.

The UN and Arab League have tried several times to broker a ceasefire, but the truces have fallen apart shortly after coming into force.