Protests Erupt in Syria, Five Reported Dead in Government Attacks

Posted May 25th, 2012 at 6:40 am (UTC-5)
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Syrian protesters launched anti-government rallies on Friday as activists blamed security forces for at least five deaths in attacks that have continued to erode a shaky cease-fire.

Although hundreds of United Nations observers are in the country, there appears to be little signs that violence between rebels and government forces is subsiding.

The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights tells VOA that government forces shot and killed four people in the flashpoint Hama region and another person in southern Daraa province early Friday. Details of the incidents were not available.

The continued unrest has strained a six-week-old cease-fire which is part of a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan.

The Reuters news agency quoted an Annan spokesman as saying the envoy would travel to Syria “soon” for what would be his first visit since presenting the peace plan in March.

On Thursday, a U.N. panel blamed both the government and armed rebels for what it called recent human rights violations.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria said the Syrian army and security forces were responsible for most of the violations that had occurred since March. But it said opposition forces shared some of the blame.

The panel was established by the U.N. Human Rights Council last year to investigate the unrest that erupted when the government launched its crackdown on dissent.

As Friday prayers ended, protesters spilled on to streets in cities including Damascus and Aleppo. The protesters are continuing their call for the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad.

State media reported Mr. Assad said Thursday that the Syrian government continues to withstand outside pressures and rebel opposition “thanks to the people's steadfastness and adherence to its unity and independence.”