Cease-fire in Syria Ends Abruptly
October 28, 2012
The cease-fire in Syria has ended, with both sides trading attacks during what was to have been a four-day end to fighting to mark the Eid al-Adha holiday.
The holiday, also known as the "Feast of the Sacrifice," is one of the most sacred observances in the Islamic calendar. Nonetheless, government planes fired missile and dropped bombs and opposition forces fired guns in rapid violation of an agreement brokered by U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.
Both sides had giving tacit approval to the break in the fighting, but Brahimi's plan had no mechanism for enforcement, with a vague plan for U.N. peacekeeping troops weeks, if not months, away. As for peace talks, the main Syrian opposition groups refuse to enter into any such discussions until Assad resigns, which he has vowed not to do.
And so the civil war continues, with the death toll estimated by human rights groups to have topped 35,000. International interest in the conflict has been intense, with neighboring countries expressing concern and alarm. Turkey, Syria's neighbor to the north, has been the most vocal in opposition to Syria's Bashar al-Assad, especially in the wake of several mortar attacks that spilled onto Turkish soil. The two countries have exchanged airspace bans, and Turkish troops continue to mobilize along the shared border.
The number of refugees who have fled the conflict over Syria's porous borders is thought to be in the hundreds of thousands, with most believed to have gone to Turkey, which until recently was also the head of the most well-known opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, which has now relocated inside Syria (but at an undisclosed location).
Echoing an LINK incident in Turkey a couple weeks ago, the Iraqi government forced an Iranian plane bound for Syria to land for cargo inspection. Iran has no made secret of shipping weapons to the Syrian government.
The civil war is also thought to have spilled over into neighboring Lebanon, where a high-ranking government official was killed two weeks ago. The tiny country reflects the Shia-Sunni divide, which is also found in Syria, where Sunnis outnumber the Alawite Shia sect to which Assad and many of his government belong.
Further international action could come from Brahimi, who succeeded Kofi Annan, who secured his own peace plan several months ago only to see it broken not long after. But any sustained peacekeeping action would need approval of the U.N. Security Council, which has so far been unwilling to sign off on any such thing.