Tenuous ceasefire in Syria 9 replies

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Commissar MercZ

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#1 7 years ago

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/14/world/middleeast/syria-cease-fire-tested-by-reports-of-clashes.html

Protests Follow Cease-Fire in Syria By NEIL MacFARQUHAR

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrians by the thousands marched through the streets of cities and towns across the country Friday, testing a tenuous, day-old cease-fire that the United Nations struggled to shore up when the rapid deployment of international observers snagged on Russian objections.

There were scattered reports of deaths and arrests linked to the demonstrations, which had been dubbed “A Revolution for all Syrians” by local organizers nationwide.

Participants admitted to feeling somewhat tentative, sticking to back streets to avoid the security forces, snipers and the tanks that were used to suppress the peaceful protest movement and that remained deployed around many central squares and major crossroads.

But the marches were just big and exuberant enough to remind demonstrators of the mass rallies that started in March 2011 to demand the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

“We remembered the old days when we would protest in large numbers, when the whole city would protest,” said Fares, an activist in Zabadani, near Damascus, reached via Skype.

In Zabadani, as in many places, residents described a heavy police presence around mosques—the weekly Friday prayer sermons have provided the kick-off for mass demonstrations since the beginning. “We didn’t gather in one point, we kept moving,” said Fares, with a lookout posted near security headquarters to raise the alarm when patrol vehicles roared onto the streets. “We wanted to show the world that we are adhering to our demands.” He asked to be identified only by his first name to avoid government reprisals.

A video uploaded onto You Tube said to have been filmed in downtown Hama showed an extensive mob clapping their hands overhead in unison while chanting. “Oh God, let our victory be fast!” Another from Homs was more pointed with the crowd yelling “We want your head, Bashar,” among other slogans. Women and children appeared in some videos—they had all but disappeared under the onslaught that has left at least 9,000 people dead by United Nations count.

Syria’s official media reported mass demonstrations across the country in support of Mr. Assad.

The security forces were aggressive in some places, passive in others, a patchwork difficult to gauge from afar as were the demonstrations themselves. Multiple checkpoints around Damascus were used to prevent public transportation from entering the downtown area and security vehicles with Kalashnikov barrels protruding from windows slowly circulated in many areas.

A group of security men in one such vehicle shouted at a group of worshippers emerging from a mosque to hurry home. In the suburb of Maqadamiah, as the funeral of a protester shot dead on Thursday began to turn into a mass protest, security men blocked the route to the cemetery and shot toward protestors to disperse them, said Usama, an activist reached by telephone, who also used one name for safety reasons.

Activists around the country reported that some demonstrators had been tear gassed and others beaten, along with a few reports of renewed shelling. But the violence was far less than in recent months, when scores were reported killed daily under the pounding of heavy weaponry.

Both the lack of international media circulating across the country and the presence of security forces on the streets contradicted the six-point peace plan negotiated by Kofi Annan, the special envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported eight people killed after the demonstrations started. In addition, a lieutenant was killed and 24 other officers and a few civilians injured when a roadside bomb destroyed a bus in Aleppo, according to state-run media. It also accused “armed terrorist groups”—its shorthand for all opposition—with the assassination of a local Baath Party official near the southern town of Dara’a and the shooting death of a brigadier general overnight near Damascus.

Given that all 15 members of the United Nations Security Council had endorsed Mr. Annan’s six-point plan, including the deployment of United Nations monitors, the resolution authorizing the mission had been expected to pass easily.

But Russia, the Assad government’s most important defender, objected to an operative paragraph that would give the monitors a free hand in conducting their work, granting them abilities like unhindered access to anyplace in the country and the right to interview anyone without government interference, according to Security Council diplomats.

Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador, said he still expected a rapid vote on the resolution, but it was unclear how quickly the differences could be resolved. Negotiations going paragraph by paragraph started Friday afternoon and no vote was expected until at least Saturday, diplomats said.

An advance team of up to 30 observers, drawn from various United Nations peacekeeping or observer missions in the region, was due to be dispatched as soon as the Security Council approved it, said Ahmad Fawzi, Mr. Annan’s spokesman. The full mission would reach 250 observers he said, and as is common on such missions, Syria would have ultimate approval over the nationalities involved.

Mr. Fawzi described the cease-fire as “relatively respected.”

Valerie Amos, top United Nations official on humanitarian aid, said at least one million people were in need of such help in Syria—the rapid provision of that also part of the peace plan.

But foreign leaders continued to express profound doubts about how long it might hold. In Paris, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France told a television interviewer, “I do not believe in Bashar al-Assad’s sincerity, nor, unfortunately, in the cease-fire.”

Mr. Sarkozy, who is fighting for a second term in elections starting later this month, said the deployment of United Nations observers was important “so that at the very least we know what is happening,” and he urged the creation of humanitarian corridors to enable “those unfortunates who are being massacred by a dictator” to flee.

Reporting was contributed by Hala Droubi from Beirut, Alan Cowell from London and an employee of The New York Times from Damascus, Syria.

The ceasefire was enforced this week as per a UN agreement on the matter, which will see UN observers eventually deployed to the country. Unsurprisingly both sides have already accused one another of breaking the ceasefire- the government says that the FSA and other 'terrorists' are illegally occupying neighborhoods and military posts, encouraging protests and instability (points to a bomb set off in Aleppo again). The 'opposition' blames the government for firing on and intimidating protestors (points to snipers attacking people demonstrating). If it doesn't fall apart, UN indicates its team of 30 observers will be ready to deploy sometime on Friday or Saturday. Thus far casualties range from 7000 to over 9000.




MrFancypants Forum Admin

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#2 7 years ago

A ceasefire isn't going to solve anything anyway. Assad can continue to persecute protesters in less obvious ways later on.

Too bad, really. Even Russia started to be skeptical about Assad's lack of cooperation recently.




Commissar MercZ

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#3 7 years ago

MrFancypants;5633161A ceasefire isn't going to solve anything anyway. Assad can continue to persecute protesters in less obvious ways later on.

Too bad, really. Even Russia started to be skeptical about Assad's lack of cooperation recently.

The problem here I see is as far as the government is concerned, they can continue to justify actions so long as they have the Free Syria Army and other groups causing violence continue to operate. From the state's perspective the ceasefire will allow for a lull that can allow political groups to reorganize and reassert themselves where previously they were intimidated by violence and other threats that kept them indoors. They also, unfortunately, been able to manipulate of minority groups, such as the Alawites (from who Assad hails from and much of the high command in the military draws from) and the Christians by telling they might experience an Iraq-like scenario of sectarian violence with out the government (Mubarak too did this with Copts) and as such is trying to cast off the protests as predominately "Sunni Arab" in nature.

Listening to the rant of the Syrian diplomat to the UN essentially summed that up, along with the usual talking points they made. They continue to refer to these 'armed gangs' and 'terrorists' causing violence to the citizens of Syria and when they refer to their orders its always from a 'group' and paid in US dollars (going back to the whole claim that this is foreign agitation in their country, not legitimate concerns...). He went on to elaborate that while these countries are pushing for a ceasefire on one end, they are negotiating with the SNC and other opposition groups on the other end which Syria is getting jumpy over. Amusingly he took the same talking point that the neo-cons often take: there is a conflict between "political pan-Arabism" and "political Islam", implying the former being progressive, secular, and committed to rule of law and the latter a big no no.

For the most part the UN is taking violations on the government's end as more suspect than what the government has bee saying with regards to the "armed gangs" taking over neighborhoods and outposts. I'm just surprised though the government has been able to withstand the pressures of the economy grinding down with this year+ of instability.




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#4 7 years ago

The anti-Islamist angle seems to be a popular one among Middle Eastern dictators these days. Probably because there is some truth to it. A couple of weeks ago I read an article about the FSA which basically said that without international help the rebels would be forced to accept help from Isalmist terrorist groups.




Commissar MercZ

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#5 7 years ago
MrFancypants;5633250The anti-Islamist angle seems to be a popular one among Middle Eastern dictators these days. Probably because there is some truth to it. A couple of weeks ago I read an article about the FSA which basically said that without international help the rebels would be forced to accept help from Isalmist terrorist groups.

There is truth to this matter, but it's the unfortunate reality that many of the opposition to dictatorships in the Middle-East come from an "Islamist" perspective now, owing the destruction of the socialist and Republican (or rather nationalist) movements in the region. Interestingly the US and others had encouraged development of Islamist groups as a counterweight to the socialist and republican ones, who were generally on good terms with the Soviet Union. The FSA though would not have to worry about isolation though- they're just throwing out clams to indicate that no one is helping them when it's the opposite- for the fact that the FSA has safe haven in Turkey without any repercussions is 'significant' help in itself.

There's also the matter that they know the world media freaks about these 'Islamists' and they're playing it for its full value. Otherwise what else could they say? Much as the playbook for a particular camp dictators was to claim that there was a potential of a communist insurrection in the country, they've switched gears into claiming there are terrorists pouring out of every crack.




Commissar MercZ

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#6 7 years ago

The first wave of observers are in Syria currently trying to see whether or not there can be a process towards peace. The Syrian government indicates it will be accepting of the plan to expand the contingent to 250; It's been reported though that the level of violence has reached back to what it was before the ceasefire.

Syria 'pledges respect' for Annan plan - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Syria's foreign minister has pledged to respect UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan and to co-operate with a UN team sent to monitor a fragile ceasefire between government forces and opposition fighters.

Walid al-Muallem's comments, made as he met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Wednesday, came as both the opposition and authorities reported violations of the truce.

"Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem... said Syria would continue to... respect and implement Annan's 'six-point proposal'," China's foreign ministry quoted Muallem as telling Yang Jiechi.

Muallem also said Damascus remained committed to implementing a ceasefire, withdrawing troops and co-operating with UN observers, the statement added.

He said in a news conference that UN plans to deploy 250 monitors on the ground in Syria were "reasonable and logical".

So far, only a handful of advance monitors have arrived in the country.

Muallem is on a short visit to China to brief Beijing on his nation's latest efforts to implement Annan's peace proposal, which came into force last week and includes a full ceasefire and withdrawal of troops.

Shootings reported

The observer team travelled to Arbeen at the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday, escorted by police.

Their cars were surrounded by demonstrators waving flags and a banner reading: "The butcher continues killings, the observers continue observing, and the people continue with their revolution. We only bow to God" was plastered on the rear of one of the UN cars.

Activists said shooting broke out during the monitors' visit, but it was not clear whether the observers witnessed the incident.

They made a trip south to the city of Deraa on Tuesday, apparently without incident.

Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said the final logistical details regarding the UN monitors in Syria have yet to be finalised.

"Issues that need to be addressed include how much access will the monitors have, how much freedom of movement do they have, how much control will the government have over them?" she said.

"It is going to be very hard for them to venture into very fragile areas where the army and armed groups are shooting at each other, without risking their safety."

'Security forces killed'

Both the opposition and state media reported fresh violence on Wednesday.

SANA state news agency blamed "terrorists" for a blast in the northern Idlib province which it said killed six members of the security forces.

It also said a policeman had been killed by a sniper in the southern Deraa province and that a lieutenant colonel had been shot dead in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

Meanwhile, government forces shelled four rebel districts of Homs: Juret al-Shayah, al-Qarabis, al-Khaldiyeh and al-Bayada, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

They are among a string of neighbourhoods of Syria's third largest city that remain outside security force control despite a massive assault on its Bab Amr district that saw hundreds killed, including Western journalists, before troops moved in on March 1.

Idlib, the main city in the province with the same name, has reportedly also been shelled in recent days, as the army tries to rid the area of opposition fighters. Activists say many people have been killed, but witness accounts are difficult to verify since most international media has been barred from entering Syria.

'The killing still goes on'

On Tuesday, Arab League ministers called on Damascus to stick to Annan's six-point plan.

"We fully support Mr Annan and his six-point plan, but sadly, the killing still goes on," Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, Qatar's prime minister, told reporters after the meeting in Doha on Tuesday.

"We are fearful that the regime is playing for time. We expressed this to Mr Annan."

Nabil al-Araby, the Arab League secretary-general, called for the ceasefire to be implemented "completely and immediately".

"Annan's mission is a political one which would take some time," he said.

The Arab ministerial committee, chaired by Qatar, includes Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Iraq, and Kuwait.

On Monday, Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, said the chances of Annan's plan succeeding were "no higher than three per cent” and that Syrians should not be supported through peaceful means but "with arms".

Qatar has taken a hard stance in favour of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Hopes for the observation mission have been tempered by the failure of the earlier Arab League mission which was hampered by government restrictions on movement, and UN chief Ban Ki-moon has demanded his monitors be given free access.

Al Jazeera's Steve Chao, reporting from outside the meeting in Doha, said Arab leaders were "highly sceptical about Syria's intentions".

"The Arab League did not say exactly how much time they would give Kofi Annan … before they basically rule this peace plan a failure," Chao said.

"They pointed to the fact that so far, five days into this ceasefire, Syria has yet to implement any of the six points Kofi Annan has laid out."




Commissar MercZ

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#7 7 years ago

UN approves to enlarge the team from a group of 30 to 300. It's still not clear though whether or not they'll be able to do anything, with both sides accusing one another of undermining the peace. For their part, the Syrian government in the UN accused the US, Europe, and their gulf allies for actively trying to 'undermine' the ceasefire while the SNC and others say the government isn't being intimidated by the observers.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/un-authorizes-team-of-up-to-300-cease-fire-monitors-in-syria/2012/04/21/gIQAPLdzXT_story.html

U.N. Security Council authorizes team of up to 300 cease-fire observers in Syria By Colum Lynch and Alice Fordham, Saturday, April 21, 11:46 AM

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted Saturday to establish a full-fledged U.N. mission, with up to 300 unarmed military observers and an unspecified number of civilian specialists, to monitor a shaky cease-fire between the Syrian government and armed opposition forces.

The newly minted U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria is set to reinforce a small advance team that began testing the nine-day-old cease-fire this week with visits to a handful of Syrian towns, including a trip Saturday to the city of Homs, the scene of a military crackdown in recent months.

The agreement marks a public show of unity among the United Nations’s fractious big powers in support of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for ending 13 months of deadly upheaval and clearing the way for a political settlement between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and a diverse array of armed and civilian opponents. The Security Council resolution authorizes the new mission for an initial 90 days but does not include a timetable for its deployment, leaving that decision to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

After the vote, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that although the Obama administration supports the move, there should be “no illusions” that a small mission of U.N. observers will necessarily be capable of halting the Syrian crackdown and that the United States is prepared to pull the plug on it after 90 days if Syria does not comply with Annan’s peace plan.

“We are sober about the risks, all the more given the Assad regime’s long record of broken promise, deceit and disregard for the most basic human standards,” she said. “Let there be no doubt that we, our allies, and others in this body are planning and preparing for those actions that will be required of all of us if the Assad regime persists in the slaughter of the Syrian people.”

Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said that the United States and its European and Arab allies were seeking to undermine the U.N.-brokered peace process and that their public expressions of doubt about its prospects for success were emboldening the Syrian opposition to continue fighting. The opposition’s foreign supporters, Jaafari told the council, must “cease to fund, arm and train the armed groups and desist from encouraging them to continue their terrorist actions.”

Meanwhile, members of the small advance team of observers visited Homs, where residents reported that the military had halted its artillery bombardment for the first time in more than a week. Cellphone coverage also returned for the first time in months, but amateur video footage of the observers driving and walking through Homs neighborhoods indicated gunfire near one patrol.

According to Ban, the Syrian government, which is responsible for the observers’ safety, had previously prevented the team from visiting Homs, citing security reasons. In one video shot Saturday by activists in the suburb of Khalidiyeh, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months and been heavily shelled by government forces, a weeping woman bangs on the window of the U.N.-marked vehicle, trying to pass the observers a letter.

In another, as two monitors walk in the street with chanting residents waving the flag of the uprising, the sound of gunfire can be heard and the demonstrators hustle the observers to the side of the road, apparently to protect them. No injuries were immediately reported.

Homs has been a center of rebellion against the government for months, with peaceful protesters and armed rebels both present. Thousands are believed to have died in fighting between security forces and the heavily outgunned opposition, and some neighborhoods, particularly the hard-hit Baba Amr area, have been badly damaged, with many buildings ruined.

Activists and diplomats say that in contravention of the cease-fire agreement, the government has kept a military presence in the city, while the government says armed groups are still fighting there. Activists said Saturday that some tanks had been hidden in trenches ahead of the U.N. visit.

After protests Friday in which dozens of people — including civilians, security forces and armed opponents of Assad — were reportedly killed, the country was relatively quiet Saturday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian state media reported, however, that an “armed terrorist group” blew up an oil pipeline near Deir al-Zour, in the east, and that four policemen were abducted in the restive northern province of Idlib.

The adoption of the supervision mission resolution Saturday followed a day of intensive negotiations in which Britain and France, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, tabled competing resolutions that reflected the sharp differences over the U.N. role in the crisis.

Britain and France, supported by the United States, favored the inclusion of a provision threatening Syria with sanctions if it does not withdraw its troops and military equipment to barracks.

Russia, however, offered a milder text that contained no threat of sanctions and sought to spread blame for the crisis. In the end, the council began negotiations on the basis of the Russian draft, striking a compromise that includes an expression of “profound regret” at the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians and condemns “widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups.”

The resolution reiterates U.N. calls on Syria to guarantee freedom of movement for the monitors, and it prods the government to swiftly conclude an agreement allowing the United Nations to use planes and helicopters in Syria to quickly transport monitors to trouble spots.

The resolution increases pressure on Syria to rapidly implement all six elements of Annan’s plan, including the release of political prisoners, guarantees of freedom of movement for international aid workers and journalists and the right to hold peaceful protests. But it goes beyond it in the call for Syria to withdraw its forces and equipment to barracks. Annan’s plan only requires Syria to begin that process.

On Thursday, Ban offered a mixed account of the success of the cease-fire, telling the Security Council in a report that “it remains a challenge to assess accurately unconfirmed and conflicting reports of developments in Syria.”

Ban wrote that “levels of violence dropped markedly” in Syria after April 12, when the cease-fire went into effect. “However,” he said, “the Syrian Government has yet to fully implement its initial obligations regarding the actions and deployments of its troops and heavy weapons, or to return them to barracks. Violent incidents and reports of casualties have escalated again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas and abuses by government forces. The Government reports violent actions by armed groups. The cessation of armed violence in all its forms is therefore clearly incomplete.”

After the vote, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, praised the outcome, saying it “enshrined the council’s consensus” behind the Annan plan. But he faulted the Syrian opposition’s backers for their pessimism, saying they bore a responsibility to “uphold the resolutions of the Security Council and not undermine its activity.” He urged them to use their influence to encourage the opposition to meet their own obligations under the cease-fire agreement.

Rice and other Western diplomats voiced deep skepticism about Syria’s commitment to the Annan plan, saying Damascus has continued shelling neighborhoods in Homs and Idlib despite the cease-fire.

“Let me be plain,” Rice said. “If there is not a sustained cessation of violence, full freedom of movement for U.N. personnel and rapid meaningful progress on all other aspects of the six-point plan, then we must all conclude that this mission has run its course.”

Fordham reported from Beirut.

© The Washington Post Company

In the US, Leon Panetta signaled the US should be prepared to use new policies to "protect" Syrian casualties, and that the Pentagon has indeed been looking into such strategies, leaving open more and more talk about a military intervention or some action similar to Libya. I'm not sure where things'll go though, considering it's an election cycle currently.




Commissar MercZ

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#8 7 years ago

UN approves to enlarge the team from a group of 30 to 300. It's still not clear though whether or not they'll be able to do anything, with both sides accusing one another of undermining the peace. For their part, the Syrian government in the UN accused the US, Europe, and their gulf allies for actively trying to 'undermine' the ceasefire while the SNC and others say the government isn't being intimidated by the observers.

U.N. authorizes team of up to 300 cease-fire observers in Syria - The Washington Post

U.N. Security Council authorizes team of up to 300 cease-fire observers in Syria By Colum Lynch and Alice Fordham, Saturday, April 21, 11:46 AM

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted Saturday to establish a full-fledged U.N. mission, with up to 300 unarmed military observers and an unspecified number of civilian specialists, to monitor a shaky cease-fire between the Syrian government and armed opposition forces.

The newly minted U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria is set to reinforce a small advance team that began testing the nine-day-old cease-fire this week with visits to a handful of Syrian towns, including a trip Saturday to the city of Homs, the scene of a military crackdown in recent months.

The agreement marks a public show of unity among the United Nations’s fractious big powers in support of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan for ending 13 months of deadly upheaval and clearing the way for a political settlement between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and a diverse array of armed and civilian opponents. The Security Council resolution authorizes the new mission for an initial 90 days but does not include a timetable for its deployment, leaving that decision to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

After the vote, Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that although the Obama administration supports the move, there should be “no illusions” that a small mission of U.N. observers will necessarily be capable of halting the Syrian crackdown and that the United States is prepared to pull the plug on it after 90 days if Syria does not comply with Annan’s peace plan.

“We are sober about the risks, all the more given the Assad regime’s long record of broken promise, deceit and disregard for the most basic human standards,” she said. “Let there be no doubt that we, our allies, and others in this body are planning and preparing for those actions that will be required of all of us if the Assad regime persists in the slaughter of the Syrian people.”

Syria’s U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, said that the United States and its European and Arab allies were seeking to undermine the U.N.-brokered peace process and that their public expressions of doubt about its prospects for success were emboldening the Syrian opposition to continue fighting. The opposition’s foreign supporters, Jaafari told the council, must “cease to fund, arm and train the armed groups and desist from encouraging them to continue their terrorist actions.”

Meanwhile, members of the small advance team of observers visited Homs, where residents reported that the military had halted its artillery bombardment for the first time in more than a week. Cellphone coverage also returned for the first time in months, but amateur video footage of the observers driving and walking through Homs neighborhoods indicated gunfire near one patrol.

According to Ban, the Syrian government, which is responsible for the observers’ safety, had previously prevented the team from visiting Homs, citing security reasons. In one video shot Saturday by activists in the suburb of Khalidiyeh, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months and been heavily shelled by government forces, a weeping woman bangs on the window of the U.N.-marked vehicle, trying to pass the observers a letter.

In another, as two monitors walk in the street with chanting residents waving the flag of the uprising, the sound of gunfire can be heard and the demonstrators hustle the observers to the side of the road, apparently to protect them. No injuries were immediately reported.

Homs has been a center of rebellion against the government for months, with peaceful protesters and armed rebels both present. Thousands are believed to have died in fighting between security forces and the heavily outgunned opposition, and some neighborhoods, particularly the hard-hit Baba Amr area, have been badly damaged, with many buildings ruined.

Activists and diplomats say that in contravention of the cease-fire agreement, the government has kept a military presence in the city, while the government says armed groups are still fighting there. Activists said Saturday that some tanks had been hidden in trenches ahead of the U.N. visit.

After protests Friday in which dozens of people — including civilians, security forces and armed opponents of Assad — were reportedly killed, the country was relatively quiet Saturday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian state media reported, however, that an “armed terrorist group” blew up an oil pipeline near Deir al-Zour, in the east, and that four policemen were abducted in the restive northern province of Idlib.

The adoption of the supervision mission resolution Saturday followed a day of intensive negotiations in which Britain and France, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other, tabled competing resolutions that reflected the sharp differences over the U.N. role in the crisis.

Britain and France, supported by the United States, favored the inclusion of a provision threatening Syria with sanctions if it does not withdraw its troops and military equipment to barracks.

Russia, however, offered a milder text that contained no threat of sanctions and sought to spread blame for the crisis. In the end, the council began negotiations on the basis of the Russian draft, striking a compromise that includes an expression of “profound regret” at the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians and condemns “widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups.”

The resolution reiterates U.N. calls on Syria to guarantee freedom of movement for the monitors, and it prods the government to swiftly conclude an agreement allowing the United Nations to use planes and helicopters in Syria to quickly transport monitors to trouble spots.

The resolution increases pressure on Syria to rapidly implement all six elements of Annan’s plan, including the release of political prisoners, guarantees of freedom of movement for international aid workers and journalists and the right to hold peaceful protests. But it goes beyond it in the call for Syria to withdraw its forces and equipment to barracks. Annan’s plan only requires Syria to begin that process.

On Thursday, Ban offered a mixed account of the success of the cease-fire, telling the Security Council in a report that “it remains a challenge to assess accurately unconfirmed and conflicting reports of developments in Syria.”

Ban wrote that “levels of violence dropped markedly” in Syria after April 12, when the cease-fire went into effect. “However,” he said, “the Syrian Government has yet to fully implement its initial obligations regarding the actions and deployments of its troops and heavy weapons, or to return them to barracks. Violent incidents and reports of casualties have escalated again in recent days, with reports of shelling of civilian areas and abuses by government forces. The Government reports violent actions by armed groups. The cessation of armed violence in all its forms is therefore clearly incomplete.”

After the vote, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, praised the outcome, saying it “enshrined the council’s consensus” behind the Annan plan. But he faulted the Syrian opposition’s backers for their pessimism, saying they bore a responsibility to “uphold the resolutions of the Security Council and not undermine its activity.” He urged them to use their influence to encourage the opposition to meet their own obligations under the cease-fire agreement.

Rice and other Western diplomats voiced deep skepticism about Syria’s commitment to the Annan plan, saying Damascus has continued shelling neighborhoods in Homs and Idlib despite the cease-fire.

“Let me be plain,” Rice said. “If there is not a sustained cessation of violence, full freedom of movement for U.N. personnel and rapid meaningful progress on all other aspects of the six-point plan, then we must all conclude that this mission has run its course.”

Fordham reported from Beirut.

© The Washington Post Company

In the US, Leon Panetta signaled the US should be prepared to use new policies to "protect" Syrian casualties, and that the Pentagon has indeed been looking into such strategies, leaving open more and more talk about a military intervention or some action similar to Libya. I'm not sure where things'll go though, considering it's an election cycle currently.




Commissar MercZ

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#9 7 years ago

The Syrian government is reporting car bombings in Damascus, which have targeted and killed three military officers. Naturally it is saying this adds to the failure of the ceasefire that has been imposed by outside powers to topple the Syrian government.

Syrian Rebels Target Security Officials in Capital By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIRUT (AP) — Rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad killed three regime officers in separate attacks Tuesday around Damascus, activists and state media said, the latest violence targeting the security forces used by the government to quash dissent.

A bomb hidden in an army truck also exploded in the capital, wounding several people.

The persistent bloodshed has tarnished efforts by a U.N. team of observers to salvage a truce that the international community sees as the last-chance to prevent the country from falling into civil war.

U.N. monitors visited the restive Damascus suburb of Douma on Tuesday, their second visit in two days. Activist Mohammed Saeed said shelling and gunfire in the area Tuesday killed one person. Amateur videos posted online showed smoke rising into the sky after an explosion as well as tanks moving through the streets alongside soldiers firing weapons.

The observers also returned to the central city of Hama, where regime forces killed more than 30 people on Monday. The killings were apparently in retaliation for a large rally to welcome the team during a visit on Sunday.

An amateur video showed two women appealing to the team's head, Col. Ahmed Himiche, for protection.

"They slaughtered us! Our children are gone! Burning and killing and slaughter!" one woman yells, preventing Himiche from shutting the door of the white U.N. Land Cruiser. "If you really came as observers for us, have mercy on us!"

Another video shows residents running for cover as men who appear to be soldiers walk across a nearby rooftop behind a wall of sandbags.

Team spokesman Neeraj Singh said the team also visited the city of Homs, where two observers are staying, and that two would remain in Hama.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one intelligence officer was shot dead in the northeastern Barzeh neighborhood of the capital Damascus. Also Tuesday, the state news service said "terrorists" shot to death a retired lieutenant colonel and his brother, a chief warrant officer, in an area southwest of the capital.

Inside the city, explosives that were planted in an army truck blew up as the vehicle traveled through downtown, leaving a hole in its roof and blood and shattered glass on the road. The truck's driver and two passengers in a nearby car were injured and taken to a hospital.

The state news service said an "armed terrorist group" had planted explosives under the driver's side.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The 11-person U.N. team is in Syria to observe the cease-fire and prepare for a total of 300 monitors to arrive later.

Tuesday's attacks underlined the increasing militarization of the conflict, which began in March 2011 as peaceful protests calling for political reforms with inspiration from successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. The government cracked down with massive force, deploying troops, snipers and pro-government thugs against the opposition, while regime opponents armed themselves for protection and joined forces with army defectors.

The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began.

The international community remains divided on how to stop the conflict, with the U.S. and many Western nations calling for Assad to leave power while Russia and China have stood by Damascus.

All, however, have endorsed a plan by envoy Kofi Annan that calls for a cease-fire that was to have gone into effect on April 12 to allow for talks between all sides on a political solution to the conflict.

Despite broad backing, the plan has been deeply troubled. The Syrian government has not withdrawn its troops from populated areas or allowed media access, and its troops have shelled opposition areas. Armed rebels, too, have continued to attack military convoys and checkpoints.

The regime cites such attacks in arguing that the uprising is the work of armed terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy.

Saeed, the Douma activist, said via Skype that the observers arrived with a continent of Syrian security, drove around town and left. Shooting started soon after.

"The news here is very bad," he said. "There are tanks and shelling and gunfire and the army has prevented fire engines from entering."

Activist claims and videos could not be independently verified. The Syrian government rarely comments on events inside the country and has barred most media from working in the country.

Also Tuesday, the U.N. food agency said it would deliver aid to 500,000 people in Syria, a tenfold increase since December, but warned around 1 million more people in the country still don't have enough to eat.

The World Food Program said that by the end of the month, it will provide food for 250,000 people with help from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. It also said it would quickly double that "in the coming weeks," focusing on the cities of Homs, Hama, Idlib and Damascus.

The U.N. says 1.4 million people in Syria struggled to feed themselves even before the start of the conflict.

Not entirely sure what the observers would even do there with the way things are going. Syria is already hardened in its thought that the UN is not acting 'neutral' and rather favoring the opposition groups, which it again feels is nothing more than "armed gangs" and "terrorists".




Commissar MercZ

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A blast ripped through a building in the city of Hama, killing at least 12 people. Local opposition committees put the number much higher- over 50- and blame it on a rocket that was fired from security personnel. The violence there comes after the bombings in Damascus, which killed military officers.

Syria violence rages, France tells U.N. to hurry | Reuters

(Reuters) - Syrian forces shot dead four civilians on a bus on Wednesday and fighting raged near Damascus, dissidents said, as international pressure mounted on President Bashar al-Assad to honor U.N.-backed ceasefire pledges to order his troops back to barracks.

In the city of Hama, an anti-Assad hotbed, an explosion ripped through a building, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Another activist group, the grassroots Local Coordination Committee, said the blast was caused by a rocket launched into the building and put the death toll much higher at 54, including several children.

A third activist source said the explosion may have come from inside the building. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the varying accounts.

There was no comment from Syria's government, which says it is committed to U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan's April 12 ceasefire accord, but reserves the right to respond to what it says are continued attacks by "terrorist groups".

Hama has been hosting a small team of United Nations observers, who are preparing the way for a larger U.N. mission which will arrive to monitor the ceasefire pact.

In defiance of the truce accord, shelling was relentless in Douma, east of the capital, residents said, giving further ammunition to Western states such as France that want broad United Nations sanctions to try to end more than a year of fighting in which 9,000 people have been killed.

As well as urging faster deployment of U.N. monitors, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris would push for a so-called "Chapter 7" resolution, which would mean punitive sanctions, next month if Assad's forces did not pull back.

"This cannot continue indefinitely. We want to see observers in sufficient numbers, at least 300 ... deployed as quickly as possible," Juppe said.

"If that does not work, we cannot allow the regime to defy us. We would have to move to a new stage with a Chapter 7 resolution at the United Nations to take a new step to stop this tragedy."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed when security forces opened fire on a bus at a checkpoint on the main road from Aleppo to Damascus.

An elderly man was also killed, it added, in heavy fighting in the southern city of Deraa, crucible of the anti-Assad revolt that flared 13 months ago after uprisings against autocratic leaders in North Africa and the Middle East.

A woman who visited Douma on Tuesday night said the town had been under constant shelling and was without water, power or mobile phone signal. Pro-government gunmen were wandering the streets, she added, preventing people from leaving their homes.

"There was bombardment all night. Artillery and tanks. We didn't sleep at all. Not for a moment," the woman told Reuters in neighboring Lebanon. "Most residents have gone down to live on the ground floor because most of the second and third floors have been hit."

U.N. LAMPOONED

There was no mention of the bus shooting or bombardment in Syria's rigidly controlled media or comment from the authorities in Damascus, which has barred most foreign journalists since the revolt started.

Annan, a former U.N. secretary-general, told the Security Council on Tuesday that Syria had failed to withdraw weapons from population centers in violation of the terms of the April 12 truce he engineered.

"Everything we have seen suggests that the Syrians are wanting to play for time and they haven't any real intention to start a political process and a transition. But we need to call their bluff, as it were, and test that," a senior Western diplomat told reporters in New York on condition of anonymity.

The latest violence comes two days after 31 people were killed in Hama immediately after U.N. monitors left the area and may prompt more outside pressure on Assad.

Damascus says 2,600 of its security personnel have been killed by the rebel armed groups that operate in parts of the country of 23 million.

"The situation in Syria continues to be unacceptable," Annan told the 15-nation Security Council. "The Syria authorities must implement their commitments in full and a cessation of violation in all its forms must be respected by all parties."

He stressed the need to get "eyes and ears on the ground", but peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said it would take a month to deploy the first 100 monitors of the UNSMIS mission - a time frame that drew derision from ordinary Syrians.

"It takes them a month to arrive? Are they coming on horses?" asked a resident of Homs, a city which has endured constant army shelling. He declined to give his real name.

The reasons for the slow deployment were not clear, although diplomats said Norwegian General Robert Mood, who led a U.N. negotiating team to Syria this month, had been made its head.

So far, there are only 15 unarmed monitors in Syria out of a planned final team of 300, a frustratingly thin presence for the opposition activists who say they have noted some decline in the daily death toll.

In a display of Syrian black humor, some activists have mocked the monitors, appearing on video in spoof blue uniforms and with blacked-out glasses and tissue paper stuffed into their ears - pretending neither to see nor hear anything untoward.

"After one month we will have maybe 1,000 or 2,000 people killed - it's ridiculous. How can the international community watch without moving quickly?" asked Mousab al-Hamadi, an opposition resident in Hama province, a hotbed of the revolt.

RUSSIAN DOUBTS

Annan said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had written to him saying that "the withdrawal of massed troops and heavy weapons from in and around population centers is now complete and military operations have ceased".

However, Annan's team cited satellite imagery as evidence that tanks are lurking out of sight on the outskirts of cities. Even Syria's ally Russia voiced concern.

Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said it would be worrying if Damascus had failed to withdraw troops and weapons.

"If this is the case, if the promise in the letter has not really been carried out, that would mean it is a breach of the promise they made on Saturday," Churkin said. "I'm certainly going to bring it to the attention of Moscow."

Throughout the conflict, Russia has been one of Assad's few friends, providing protection at the United Nations from any Security Council measures.

For all the rhetoric, France and other Western powers have few tools to dislodge Assad, who succeeded his long-ruling father Hafez al-Assad in 2000 and who has brushed aside all calls to hand over power.

They are particularly wary of military intervention similar to NATO's Libya air campaign that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi for fear it could draw in powerful Assad allies such as Iran and Hezbollah militants and further destabilize the Middle East.

(Additional reporting by John Irish, Louis Charbonneau and Dominic Evans; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alistair Lyon/Mark Heinrich)

Economically the country is very bad off, with all the instability drying up stockpiles and the black market becoming even larger- though the government forces themselves are not affected too heavily due to having a hand in these black markets that business interests are operating through. France, as the article mentions in passing, is pushing for the UN to consider military action as a possible response to the crisis.