Nearly sixty killed in Syria despite ceasefire

AFP , Tuesday 24 Apr 2012

A UN monitoring group says nearly 60 people were killed on Monday in violence across Syria from government shelling and gunfire in the central city of Hama

UN observers to monitor in Syria (Photo: Reuters)

Nearly 60 people were reported killed in violence across Syria on Monday despite a hard-won ceasefire and the upcoming deployment of 300 UN observers to monitor the truce, a watchdog said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday a total 54 civilians and five soldiers were killed in various provinces.

Thirty-one of the civilians died in a government assault on the Arbaeen neighbourhood in the central city of Hama and 13 others, including women and children, died blast in the village of Jarjanaz, in northwest Idlib province.

Video posted online by activists showed a street in Arbaeen with large pools of blood and women weeping. Two young girls are shown in one video crying and holding the picture of a man.

"This is my father," cries one girl.

The violence occurred despite a ceasefire that went into effect on April 12 and the presence of an advance team of UN monitors to implement the truce.

The Observatory said clashes took place Tuesday at dawn between government forces and rebel troops in a suburb of Damascus.

Gunfire and explosions were also heard in the northern suburb of Douma.

The persistent bloodshed 12 days into a ceasefire has sparked growing criticism from opposition activists of the fledgling UN mission, which still numbers just 11 observers out of a planned initial deployment of 30.

Neeraj Singh, a spokesman for the advance team, said the observers would be visiting different unspecified locations on Tuesday.

The monitors have toured several protest hubs since their arrival in the country on April 15, including the battered city of Homs, where two of them set up base at the weekend.

During their visits, they have been greeted by thousands of protesters demanding the collapse of the regime and the arming of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Despite concerns over the continued violence that the UN says has left over 9,000 people dead in 13 months of fighting, UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Monday gave the go-ahead for the deployment of 300 ceasefire monitors from next week.

Ban insisted that the government of President Bashar al-Assad ensure the protection of the unarmed observers and allow them to travel freely throughout the country.

His political chief B. Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council that Assad's compliance with a ceasefire plan "remains incomplete."

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Meqdad stressed his government's "total commitment to respecting the Annan plan," adding that the "armed terrorist groups" -- a reference to the rebels -- had not yet accepted it.

Activists have said the UN mission was allowing the regime to buy time as it presses its crackdown against what began as a popular revolt but has turned into an insurgency.

In a sign of Western frustration with Damascus, the European Union on Monday agreed to slap new sanctions on the regime, banning luxury goods exports and further restricting the sale of items used to repress dissidents.

Brussels also expanded the blacklist of dual-use goods that can be used to crack down on the population or manufacture equipment used for internal repression.

US President Barack Obama ordered sanctions and visa bans for companies and individuals providing technological know-how, computers or other equipment that help Syria and its main regional ally Iran oppress their people.

Obama said in an executive order that the two nations had committed serious human rights abuses through network disruption and by using tracking technology and by perpetrating the "malign use of technology."

Assad's Tunisian counterpart Moncef Marzouki predicted in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday that the Syrian leader was "finished" and will eventually leave power "dead or alive".

"The Russians, Chinese and Iranians," who have been supporting Assad since an uprising against his rule erupted last year, "must understand that this man (Assad) is finished and that it is no longer possible to defend him," Marzouki told the pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily.

"They must convince him to to quit power and hand it over to his deputy," he said.

"You will leave, dead or alive. It is best for you and your family to leave alive because if you decide to leave dead, this would mean that you will cause the death of tens of thousands of innocent people."

"You have caused enough bloodshed already."

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