Support Syrian Christians
30th October 2012
The Eid al-Adha cease-fire settlement brokered by the UN and Arab League mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, failed this weekend as violence continued and casualties mounted.
Eid al-Adha, the Islamic feast of sacrifice, is one of the most important holidays in Islam. Marking the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiday commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his own son, Ismail (Ishmael) to prove his faith in God.
Despite Eid al-Adha’s significance and compliance by some fighting factions, the cease fire failed to last. The Syrian Army argued that it would observe the cease fire but would also retaliate. At the same time, because of the factious nature of the opposition, general cease fires are institutionally difficult to come by. An opposition leader, Abu Mufaa, made the stark claim regarding the cease-fire, ‘On the ground, it means nothing.’[i] Sadly, the New York Times may have summed up the cease fire best:
The declared four-day holiday truce between the warring factions in Syria ended on Monday much as it had begun – with airstrikes, artillery barrages, and other fire fights around the country.[ii]
Violence was widespread and both sides breached the cease-fire agreement with impunity. Neither side seemed to respect the potential loss of non-combatant life, including children. All told the military made more than 60 air strikes. One shell hit a minibus in the Hajar Aswad area of south Damascus, killing eight, including children. On the other side, in the Jaramana district, a largely Druze and Christians area in Damascus, a car bomb killed at least six. Sunday alone claimed at least 110 lives, including 39 civilians, 34 rebels, and 35 security personnel.[iii]
As violence broke out in Syria with a truce brokered between the two sides, concern over potential spill over effects in neighbouring countries grows. Iraq and Lebanon are becoming more anxious, as both are dragged into the Syrian conflict. It is reported that many Sunni and Shiite jihadis from Iraq flow into Syria to fight on the side of their religious comrades.[iv] In Lebanon, the Washington Post and the Independent report that Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite military and political group, is under increasing pressure to back the Syrian government but also to see to its own domestic concerns.[v]
Over this past weekend, the truce proved an unmitigated diplomatic and humanitarian disaster. It shows that either the sides speaking with Lakhdar Brahimi are unserious or not in a position of consolidated control, or both. Regardless of the reasons the cease-fire agreement collapsed, it did so with incredible humanitarian harm. Again reports show the precarious proximity of violence to Christian communities and non-combatants in general. Importantly, the ceasefire needed to succeed for reasons aside from the laudable goal of ceasing the increase of human suffering, but also so that humanitarian aid groups could distribute their aid freely and more successfully. Unfortunately, as the truce failed, emergency measures had to be taken in order to distribute vital supplies without calm streets free from bombs and skies clear of artillery.[vi]
[i] Paul Wood, ‘Syria: A cease-fire in name only?’ BBC News, 25 Oct 2012, url: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20085993.
[ii] Neil MacFarquahar, ‘In Syria, Failed Truce and No Lull in Violence,’ the New York Times, 29 Oct. 2012, url: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/world/middleeast/attacks-continue-during-failed-holiday-truce-in-syria.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&ref=world&adxnnlx=1351591205-BY1HstI108eBXzQLOdPXAw
[iii] BBC News, ‘Damascus car bombings as Syria ‘ceasefire’ ends,’ 29 Oct. 2012, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-20121575.
[iv] Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango, ‘Iraqi Sects Joint Battle in Syria on Both Sides,’ the New York Times, 27 Oct. 2012, url: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/world/middleeast/influx-of-iraqi-shiites-to-syria-widens-wars-scope.html?pagewanted=all.
[v] Babah Dehganpisheh, ‘Syrian Conflict creates Sectarian Pressures on Lebanon, Hezbollah,’ published in The Independent, 28 Oct. 2012, url: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syrian-conflict-creates-sectarian-pressures-on-lebanon-hezbollah-8229551.html.
[vi] Neil MacFarquahar, ‘Syrian Military Declares Holiday Truce, but Will Respond to Attacks,’ the New York Times, 25 Oct. 2012, url: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/26/world/middleeast/syrian-military-declares-four-day-holiday-truce.html?pagewanted=1&src=recg.