UN Sending Truce Observers to Syria

Posted April 14th, 2012 at 12:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.N. Security Council has voted to send an advance team of observers to Syria where reports of violence have climbed in spite of a shaky cease-fire between government and opposition forces.

In a unanimous vote on Saturday, the Security Council authorized the deployment an advance team of up to 30 unarmed military observers. The monitors are expected to depart for Damascus within days.

The group will report on the implementation of a peace plan brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. It calls for government forces to withdraw from urban areas and end a violent crackdown on dissent. It also requires rebels to stop fighting.

Syrian forces agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday but both government and opposition forces say attacks have continued.

Rights groups and activists say security forces killed at least five people on Saturday. They say forces opened fire on a funeral procession in Aleppo, killing four people. They also say government shelling in Homs has left at least one person dead.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says two soldiers were killed in a rebel attack in the southern Daraa province.

The government, on Saturday, blamed “armed terrorists” for attacks on government forces and civilians.

Shortly after the U.N. vote, British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said a “narrow window now exists to improve the situation on the ground” in Syria.

Russia, a strong supporter of Syria, said the peace plan was at a “critical juncture.” Ambassador Vitaly Churkin urged both sides to refrain from violence.

On Friday, activists said government forces fired on civilians as mass opposition protests swelled in several flashpoint areas across Syria.

On Saturday, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal expressed concern about reports of violence against protesters.

“The threat of violence is still there because the Annan plan is also envisaging that the Syrian people should be able to do peaceful demonstrations, and what we are receiving is reports that there are peaceful demonstrations and people are shot at.”

The Syrian government has said it would only respond to attacks launched by armed militants.

On Saturday, a Syrian state-run media report blamed “an escalation of terrorist groups” for rising military and civilian deaths.

Syrian refugees in Turkey, like Velid Abdin, expressed their skepticism that President Assad could be trusted.

“We said before that this government is lying. We don't trust them. They keep lying all the time. The government won't abide by the cease-fire because their aim is to start a war and pull us into it. After the cease-fire started, they bombed Khirbet el-Joz, Damascus and Zabadani with fighter aircrafts. They didn't pull back their tanks or aircrafts. This government doesn't keep to its word.”

Ahmad Zerzuni worried things will only get worse.

“These things shouldn't be happening in anywhere in the world. It will lead to a civil war. A civil war may break out at any moment.”

The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's unrest over the past year.