Call for Syrian truce in time for Eid festival

Second strike on a residential town as peace envoy lands in bloody civil war zone

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 October, 2012, 3:59am

Syrian jets hammered a rebel town yesterday as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi landed in Damascus to press for a truce, marking the second day of an assault in which the regime is accused of using cluster bombs.

Brahimi aims to secure a ceasefire during the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim 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 Damascus airport.

"We will talk about the need to reduce the violence and about whether it is possible to stop for the occasion of Eid al-Adha."

But violence has persisted, with rebels and loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad locked in battle for the northwestern town of Maaret al-Numan on the Damascus-Aleppo highway linking Syria's two biggest cities.

Syrian forces, who hold air supremacy, again battered the town a day after strikes on a residential area killed dozens, nearly half of them children.

The military wants to regain control of the highway to resupply units under fire in Aleppo for the past three months, and assist 250 troops besieged in their Wadi Deif base. Fighter jets overflew at high altitude before nosediving and striking targets on the town's outskirts, as helicopter gunships buzzed the area.