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Car bomb in Damascus shatters feeble Syria cease-fire

Syrian Revolution General Commission via AFP - Getty Images

A handout picture released by the Syrian Revolution General Commission shows Syrians inspecting the site of a car bomb attack in the Daf Shawk district of Damascus on Oct. 26. At least five people were killed and 32 wounded in a car bomb attack in southern Damascus, Syrian state television said, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said children were among the wounded.

A powerful car bomb exploded in Damascus on Friday, inflicting many casualties and buffeting a shaky temporary truce in the Syrian conflict on the occasion of a Muslim religious holiday.

State television said the "terrorist car bomb" had killed five people and wounded 32, according to "preliminary figures."

Opposition activists said the bomb had gone off near a makeshift children's playground built for the Eid al-Adha holiday in the southern Daf al-Shok district of the capital.


 

Fighting erupted around Syria earlier as both sides violated the Eid al-Adha cease-fire arranged by international peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, but violence was far less intense than usual.

The Syrian military said it had responded to attacks by insurgents on army positions, in line with its announcement  Thursday that would cease military activity during the four-day holiday but would react to rebel actions.

Brahimi's cease-fire appeal had won widespread international support, including from Russia, China and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad's main foreign allies.

Syrian military agrees to Eid cease-fire; residents report shelling

The U.N.-Arab League envoy had hoped to build on the truce to calm a 19-month-old conflict that has killed an estimated 32,000 people and worsened instability in the Middle East.

Despite a Syrian truce that was due to begin on Friday morning to mark a Muslim holiday, activists claim that fighting has broken out across the country. NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

Violence appeared to wane in some areas, but truce breaches by both sides swiftly marred Syrians' hopes for a peaceful celebration of Eid al-Adha, the climax of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

"We are not celebrating Eid here," said a woman in a besieged Syrian town near the Turkish border, speaking above the noise of incessant gunfire and shelling. "No one is in the mood to celebrate. Everyone is just glad they are alive."

Her husband, a portly, bearded man in his 50s, said they and their five children had just returned to the town after nine days camped out on a farm with other families to escape clashes.

SANA via Reuters

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad attends prayers for Eid al-Adha, at al-Afram Mosque in al-Muhajirin area in Damascus on Oct. 26, 2012, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA.

"We have no gifts for our children. We can't even make phone calls to our families," he said, a young daughter on his lap.

'Painful disaster'
The Syrian conflict has aggravated divisions in the Islamic world, with Shiite Iran supporting Assad and U.S.-allied Sunni nations such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar backing his foes.

The imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque called on Arabs and Muslims to take "practical and urgent" steps to stop bloodshed in Syria.

Syrian opposition skeptical of 'feeble' ceasefire plan

"The world should bear responsibility for this prolonged and painful disaster (in Syria) and the responsibility is greater for the Arabs and Muslims who should call on each other to support the oppressed against the oppressor," Sheikh Saleh Mohammed al-Taleb told worshipers during Eid prayers.

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A look back at the violence that has overtaken the country

For some in Syria, there was no respite from war, but by dusk the death toll was still significantly lower than in recent days, when often between 150 to 200 people have been killed, according to reports that cannot be independently verified.

Assad himself, who has vowed to defeat what he says are Islamist fighters backed by Syria's enemies abroad, was shown on state television attending Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque.

The prime minister, information minister and foreign minister, as well as the mufti, Syria's top Muslim official, were filmed praying alongside the 47-year-old president.

Assad, smiling and apparently relaxed, shook hands and exchanged Eid greetings with other worshipers afterward.

Military stalemate
Protests against Assad burst out in March last year, inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere, but repression by security forces led to an armed insurgency, plunging Syria into a civil war that neither side has proved able to win or seems willing to end.

A commander from the rebel Free Syrian Army had said his fighters would honor the cease-fire but demanded Assad meet opposition demands for the release of thousands of detainees.

Some Islamist militants, including the Nusra Front, rejected the truce. Many groups were skeptical that it would hold.

"We do not care about this truce. We are cautious. If the tanks are still there and the checkpoints are still there then what is the truce?" asked Abu Moaz, spokesman for Ansar al-Islam, a group whose units fight in and around Damascus.

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