Syria has been embroiled in a bloody civil war for 20 months and the stalemate between President Assad’s forces and the rebels shows no sign of breaking. But there was a glimmer of hope this weekend when UN envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, announced a temporary ceasefire.
The momentary peace would coincide with the Muslim celebration of Eid al Adha, which begins this Friday. A breather from the fighting would be a holiday miracle for many who suffer through the shells daily.
Brahimi told reporters in Cairo on Wednesday afternoon that - after days of a rumored pact - both sides had agreed to put the war on hold. Syria's go-between says he is hopeful that a break from fighting will encourage dialogue between the factions, leading to a longer-term solution.
But if history is anything to go by, Brahimi's sentiments are optimistic, to say the least. In April it took just days for a ceasefire negotiated by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, to break down and in its wake, the violence escalated. Homs suburb, Baba Amr, was worst hit after a bloody siege by Assad’s forces ‘cleansed’ the opposition stronghold. The UN-Arab League entente cordiale was left in tatters.
For many it is not a question of ‘if’ or ‘when’ the ceasefire will end but rather, ‘who’ will shoot first. In a conflict that has spared no victims on either side, it remains to be seen who will be the Muslim Grinch that steals Eid al Adha from Syria.
In the past, Assad hasn't let religion get in the way of his attacks. Last year reports surfaced of his forces killing the faithful at the Al-Rifa'i Mosque in Damascus during Ramadan evening prayers. Numerous other religious sites have also fallen victim to government bombings. On the other side, the lack of unified rebel leadership makes it hard to impose even a transient truce on the opposition.
In the meantime, Syrian families are trying to plan their escape to neighboring Jordan or Turkey. NGOs on the borders say they expect an exodus en masse if the peace holds for even a few hours.
As Syria's people eagerly await the government's final decision tomorrow, critics predict that the ceasefire - with all its good intentions - could just pave the way to painful holiday memories to come.
If it goes ahead do you think the ceasefire will last? If not, who will be the first to break it? And, is it likely to escalate the violence? Leave us your comments below!
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