Conflict & Justice

Syria: three killed during Friday protests; cease-fire increasingly shaky as UN plans observer mission


Syrian shoppers walk in front of posters for parliamentary candidates in Damascus on April 12, 2012, as a UN-backed ceasefire went into effect.



Three Syrian protesters were shot in demonstrations against the government Friday, just one day after a UN-backed cease-fire went into effect. The government ended shelling of cities as required by the agreement, but it has not pulled back security forces from cities, or followed other parts of the six-point plan, according to Reuters.

The rallies, which have been held each Friday since the uprising against the government began in March 2011, were smaller than demonstrations of the past. It appears that the presence of snipers on rooftops in rebellious neighborhoods, which has been widely reported by activists, is having a chilling effect on public marches.

The Interior Ministry told protesters that pre-approved marches would be allowed, but an activist from Hama told Reuters the request was "ridiculous." 

"They will not give you permission and you will be taken to jail if you ask for it," he said.

Meanwhile, a US-drafted resolution circulated in the UN Security Council to authorize an unarmed observer team to enter the country to monitor compliance.

International envoy Kofi Annan told the Security Council on Thursday that he was "encouraged" at the start of the cease-fire but said the government failed to keep its pledge to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns. 

The Associated Press cited US Ambassador Susan Rice, the current council president, as saying that Annan, in a video briefing, had urged council members to demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad order his troops back to barracks.

However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that he did not believe Assad's declaration of a cease-fire was sincere, and urged the deployment of international observers.

"I do not believe Bashar al-Assad is sincere," Reuters quoted Sarkozy as telling TV channel i>tele. "Sadly I do not believe this cease-fire."

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Ban, meantime, cautioned that a single gunshot could derail the cease-fire, which started at 6 a.m. Friday, Damascus time, the AP wrote, adding that he'd urged both sides to refrain from provocation.

"It may be broken any time," Ban said. "If and when there is another gunshot, even a small gunshot may give both sides the pretext to engage in another fighting. This is a very worrisome."

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said the Security Council could pass the resolution on monitors Friday, Radio Free Europe reported.

A draft of the resolution, obtained by Reuters, would have the 15-nation council say it "demands the Syrian government implement visibly its commitments in their entirety ... to (a) cease troop movements towards population centres, (b) cease all use of heavy weapons in such centres, and (c) begin pullback of military concentrations in and around population centers."

It also "demands further that the Syrian government withdraw its troops and heavy weapons from population centres to their barracks ... calls upon all parties in Syria immediately to cease all armed violence in all its forms and to cease all arbitrary detentions, abductions and torture."

Agence France-Presse cited diplomats as saying an advanced mission of between 20 and 30 observers could be in place early next week.

The full mission would comprise at least 200 monitors.

Syria has said it would accept UN monitors.

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Below is a video of a demonstration in Rastan.

Below is a video of a protester, Khaled Arar, that the Local Coordination Commitees said was shot dead in Deraa.