11 killed as Syrians protest to test the ceasefire
DAMASCUS THOUSANDS of Syrians marched on Friday to test the regime’s commitment to a UN-backed peace plan, and the fragile two-day old ceasefire was again shaken when security forces killed 10 civilians and an army deserter.
The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed three protesters in Daraa, two protesters in Hama, two people in Idlib, two protesters in Aleppo, a demonstrator in the Damascus suburb of Daraya and a rebel soldier in al-Hassakeh.
The hard-won truce to end a 13-month crackdown on dissent that has cost an estimated more than 10,000 lives appeared to be relatively holding, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he did not expect it to last. He questioned President Bashar al Assad’s sincerity and appealed for observers to monitor his compliance.
UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan, who brokered the ceasefire, urged Syria to open humanitarian corridors to deliver aid.
“Mr Annan is aware that we don’t have a perfect situation in the country at the moment,” his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said. “There are detainees that need to be released, humanitarian corridors need to be opened.” Protesters rallied in the Qadam and Assali districts of Damascus, while other demonstrations took place in Irbin and Bibla outside the capital, according to videos posted on the Internet.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said demonstrations were organised in the northern province of Aleppo, while protesters took to the streets after the main weekly Muslim prayers in several neighbourhoods of Deir Ezzor in the east.
The Britain-based watchdog said demonstrators hurled stones at security forces in the Tariq al-Sadd district of the southern city of Daraa, cradle of the protest movement that erupted in March last year.
Sporadic clashes broke out between troops and rebels at Khirbet al-Joz on the northern border with Turkey, it said.
Violence on Thursday killed at least 10 people, including seven civilians, and wounded dozens more.
Among the dead were two soldiers killed by rebels after forces loyal to Assad attempted to break up a demonstration in the central province of Hama.
Even so, the toll is markedly lower than in recent weeks, when there have often been scores of people killed on a daily basis.
On Friday, security forces killed one man when they opened fire at a group joining a demonstration in Assi Square, in Hama, the Observatory said.
Another demonstrator was shot dead in the village of Nawa in Daraa province, as he left a mosque to join a demonstration, the Observatory said.
Regime forces also killed a man in the town of Salqin, in Idlib province, the centre added.
After the ceasefire came into force at dawn on Thursday, Annan declared he was “encouraged by reports that the situation in Syria is relatively calm and that the cessation of hostilities appears to be holding.” But as Assad’s government and the rebels traded accusations of trying to wreck the ceasefire, Annan insisted “all parties have obligations to implement fully the six-point plan.”