Truce hopes dim as Syrian fighting goes on

DAMASCUS, Syria, Oct. 23 (UPI) —

Hopes for a cease-fire in Syria dimmed Tuesday as observers said government troops and opposition forces battled in advance of a religious holiday.

Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is trying to get the warring sides to agree to a cease-fire during the four-day Eid al-Adha festival, which starts Friday.

Chances a truce will be agreed to are "slim," Voice of America reported Ahmed Ben Helli, deputy secretary-general of the Arab League, a co-sponsor of Brahimi’s peace initiative, said.

Abdulbaset Sieda, head of the opposition Syrian National Council, charged that Brahimi doesn’t have "any mechanism to observe the situation."

Fighting was reported across Syria, with government military planes attacking a neighborhood in Aleppo and reports of rebel deaths in battles elsewhere, the opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights reported.

One rebel was killed in Aleppo and there were reports of gunfire in the capital Damascus, where at least two rebels were reported to have died.

Syrian forces said a rebel coordinating the movement of opposition groups was arrested outside Hama and his "advanced communication device" was seized, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

SANA said the leader of a rebel group was killed in fighting in Aleppo and that his unit was "eliminated."

Human Rights Watch insisted again Tuesday it had evidence Syria is using cluster bombs on its populace.

A hospital building in Turkey’s Hatay province near the border with Syria was hit by an anti-aircraft shell fired from Syria, Voice of Russia reported.

The Russian broadcaster said no injuries had been reported and it wasn’t clear who fired the shell.

Syrian President Bashar Assad granted a general amnesty for crimes committed before Oct. 21, Syrian Radio and TV reported.

The decree replaces the death penalty with life sentences or lengthy prison terms.