Report: Syrian Cease-Fire Starting to Falter

Posted April 13th, 2012 at 5:55 am (UTC-5)
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There are signs the United Nations-brokered cease-fire in Syria is starting to fray.

Two activist groups reported clashes between Syrian troops and rebel forces, near the Turkish border Friday. Some of the fighting was reportedly heavy.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syrian government deployed tanks to the northwestern village of Khirbel el-Joz before gunfire erupted. Separately, the Local Coordination Committees reported tank movements and heavy gunfire in nearby Khirbet el-Joz.

Sipan Hasan with the Syrian Center for Democracy Support, a Netherlands-based group, says the fighting is no accident on the part of the Syrian army.

“The Syrian regular army is attempting to finish this situation as soon as possible. And they are trying to finish those people. What we have heard is the Syrian army is moved to looking for those groups.””

The fighting comes as Syria's opposition forces have called for widespread protests to test the Syrian government's resolve to abide by the truce. Hasan says more than a million people are expected to take to the streets as part of those protests.

The cease-fire went into effect at 6 a.m. local time on Thursday, though rights activists accused the Syrian regime of killing at least three civilians after the cease-fire deadline passed.

Later Thursday, U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan warned the U.N. Security Council that Syria had not fully complied with the terms of the peace plan. Still, Annan said he had been encouraged by reports the cease-fire was holding.

Western nations had been pushing the Security Council to send two waves of observers to Syria to monitor and enforce the cease-fire. A draft resolution calls for Syria to give the observers full and unimpeded freedom of movement across the country. It also demands Syria withdraw troops and heavy weapons from population centers.

Moscow, at times at odds with other members of the security council over the wording of resolutions aimed at Syria, has called for all parties to show “maximum prudence.”

Syrian envoy Bashar Ja'afari Thursday defended President Bashar al-Assad's regime, saying the government had ended attacks and expects opposition militias to do the same. Ja'afari blamed anti-government forces for several violent acts that he said occurred after the cease-fire deadline and said “the moment of truth has come.”

U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint statement urging Syria to abide by Annan's plan. But on Friday, Mr. Sarkozy doubted the Syrian president's sincerity, telling a French television station he therefore did not believe the cease-fire would hold.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has said the international community must be united if it is going to keep Syria from descending into “chaos.” Mr. Ban said plans were under way to send observers to Syria. Diplomats said the first U.N. monitors could be dispatched as early as Friday.