Damascus: Syria braced to hear on Thursday if Bashar al-Assad's regime would agree to a ceasefire for a Muslim holiday, as rebels moved into a new area of Aleppo and fighting raged in other parts of the country.

UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has said Assad is ready to observe a truce during the four-day holiday of Eid al-Adha that begins on Friday, but the rebels and Washington have been wary of any commitment from Damascus.

If agreed, a ceasefire would mark the first real breakthrough in halting -- even temporarily -- the 19-month conflict in Syria that rights groups say has left more than 34,000 people dead.

But there were no signs of a slowdown in the fighting on the eve of the holiday, with rebel forces taking over a strategically important Kurdish neighbourhood in Aleppo and seizing a military post in the country's northeast.

Residents in Aleppo's Ashrafiyeh district -- a key area in the heights of the city on a route between its central and northern parts -- told AFP about 200 rebels had moved in to the area for the first time.

One 28-year-old resident said the rebels, who arrived on vehicles mounted with heavy machineguns and bearing the markings of the Liwa al-Tawhid main rebel unit, made it clear they were settling in for Eid despite the promises of a ceasefire.

"Snipers have set up in the buildings and 50 armed men, dressed in black and wearing headbands with Islamic slogans, entered a school near me. I heard them tell the residents: 'We are here to spend Eid with you'," he told media.

"I am waiting for things to calm down before leaving," he said.

Fighting elsewhere saw rebels take control of a military post in the northeastern province of Raqa, regime forces bombing the Damascus suburb of Harasta and battles in the capital's southern areas of Tadamun and Qadam, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

On Wednesday, fighting in the country killed 199 people, including at least 89 civilians, it said.

Brahimi's assertion that the regime is ready for a ceasefire was backed up by Russia, though Syria's foreign ministry said a final decision would only be taken on Thursday.

The main rebel force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), has said it will only agree to the temporary truce if regime troops cease fire first and that it doubts Damascus will stand by any commitment.

But other rebels groups have refused to accept the proposal, with the radical Islamic Al-Nusra Front saying it will not lay down its weapons and denouncing the truce as a "trick".


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