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Shelling during Muslim holiday kills dozens in Syria

- Associated Press - Monday, August 20, 2012

BEIRUT — Syrian government forces heavily shelled the cities of Aleppo and Daraa and a suburb of Damascus on the second day of a major Muslim holiday Monday, killing up to 30 people, rights groups and activists said.

There was a relative lull in the civil war on Sunday, the first of three days of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. During the holiday, Muslims the world over celebrate by wearing new clothes, feasting on sumptuous food and visiting the graves of loved ones.

The renewed fighting, however, showed that President Bashar Assad's regime is not letting up on its drive to quell the 18-month-old uprising out of respect for the occasion.

Activists reported no signs of jubilation across the battered nation, with smaller-than-usual turnout for traditional prayers on the first day of the holiday and an air of gloom blanketing major cities.

Adding to the despair, two main activist groups — the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees — said that 10 bodies of adult males shot execution style were found in the Qaboun district in the capital Damascus.

The discovery of bodies in similar condition is not uncommon in Syria, particularly in the last few months as the uprising descended into a civil war with heavy sectarian undertones.

Anti-regime activists say some 20,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Mr. Assad's rule began in March 2011.

Even the U.N.'s new envoy to Syria acknowledged on Sunday that he has no concrete ideas to end the conflict and that his mission would be difficult without a unified position by the U.N. Security Council.

"The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently," Lakhdar Brahimi told the Associated Press at his Paris home on Sunday. "Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult."

Mr. Brahimi. a former Algerian foreign minister, was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria. He served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war as an Arab League envoy.

He said Mr. Annan's mission failed "because the international community was not as supportive as he needed them to be."

Russia and China have used their veto power at the Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against the Assad regime.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry source quoted by the official SANA news agency warned Mr. Brahimi that, for his mission to succeed, he must persuade countries backing the rebels to stop their support for the "armed terrorist bands" — the regime's parlance for the rebels.

Syria often singles out Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey as the rebels' main backers.

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