Syria: five days to 'ceasefire,' Assad intensifies crackdown


A Lebanese protester waves a pre-Baath Syrian flag during a demonstration against the Syrian regime in Beirut's Sunni neighbourhood of Tariq al-Jadideh on March 30, 2012. International envoy Kofi Annan urged Syria's President Bashar al-Assad to immediately implement a ceasefire, as fighting raged even after the embattled leader said he had accepted the peace plan.


Joseph Eid

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Five days before a ceasefire deadline agreed to by the Syrian government, shelling continues in cities across the country and a crackdown on protesters in Douma, a Damascus suburb, has intensified, according to the Associated Press. The news wire wrote that the multi-pronged attack "appeared to be a push by President Bashar Assad's forces to make gains on the ground ahead of a ceasefire next week."

An email from the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group that counts the dead, stated that 21 had been killed in violence so far today.

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Activists told the AP the Douma push was "one of the most violent campaigns against the area" so far. Troops and army defectors battled in Hraytan and Anadan, as well as the Kfar Shams in the south of the country. 

An activist in Hraytan said the city has been "subjected to intense shelling by tanks and helicopters since 5 a.m. local time. He added that a ground offensive began three hours later and hundreds of troops were pushing their way into the town," the AP wrote.

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"There are wounded people in the streets that we cannot reach because of the shelling," Abu Nasr told the AP by telephone. "The situation is catastrophic in the city. Large numbers of people are fleeing."

The office of Kofi Annan, the joint Arab League-United Nations envoy to Syria, which proposed the six-point peace plan that Syria has agreed to, said that implementation of the peace plan would begin on April 10, and a full ceasefire is expected by April 12. Annan is slated to address the United Nations today, and an envoy is en route to Syria to discuss implementation of the ceasefire, according to the BBC.

In Beirut, Syrian workers in Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut exchanged gunfire in fights between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime, according to the Daily Star.