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Bloodshed persists in Syria on Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr

Los Angeles Times –

BEIRUT — In the Syrian town of Talbieseh on Sunday, residents celebrated the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan on a tank as they cried out anti-government chants.

Young children played on swings hanging from the tank’s turret.

The somber Eid al-Fitr celebration was shared across the country as bloodshed continued. Activists reported more than 150 people killed, a death toll that has become the new normal as the civil war has reached every part of the country.

“What Eid? There is no Eid today,” said Abu Sufyan, with the Aleppo Military Council, which is coordinating the rebel offensive. “No one celebrated today.”

On the outskirts of Aleppo, clashes continued for a third day between rebels and the Syrian army as the opposition tried to seize what has become an important military base. For weeks, the government has sent out helicopters and fighter jets to bombard the city’s neighborhoods, activists said.

And as government forces continued to pound towns and cities Sunday, President Bashar Assad attended prayers to observe Eid festivities in Damascus.

State media showed photos of Assad praying at the Al-Hamad mosque in the Mohajirin neighborhood; elsewhere in the city and its suburbs, activists said 47 people were killed.

It was Assad’s first public appearance since the day after a July 18 bombing that killed four of his top security officials and was a chance to strike out against much of the international world, which has condemned his violent crackdown on the opposition.

“The conspiracy and terrorism against Syria by an American, Zionist, Western, Arab (and) Wahabi … alliance will never defeat the faith, Islam, and determination in Syria,” Sheikh Mohamad Khir Ghantous said in his sermon, state media reported.

Syria’s enemies want to “dismember us, setting the flame of war and sedition among us,” he added.

A number of Assad’s top ministers attended the prayer but notably absent was Vice President Farouk al-Shara. The government denied reports Saturday that al-Shara had defected, following in the path of other high-level officials, including Prime Minister Riyad Hijab.

But some in the opposition asserted that al-Shara had fled to Jordan while others said he had attempted to flee but was now under house arrest.

Eid celebrations came as Syria marked a bloody month of clashes with rebels.

The Local Coordination Committees, a coalition of opposition groups, has documented more than 4,600 deaths during the month including 445 children and 342 women. The largest number of those killed were in Damascus and Aleppo, the sites of rebel offensives around the beginning of Ramadan that led to a strong response by government forces. Those forces have increasingly taken to the skies, firing artillery from attack helicopters and fighter jets.

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