Five Die as Violence Mars Syria Truce, Protests Muted
Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shot dead four protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported, while the government said an army officer also died as violence marred a ceasefire brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan.
At the United Nations, Russia criticised a U.S.-drafted resolution authorising an advance team to monitor the fragile ceasefire which aims to end 13 months of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad, an ally of Moscow.
However, Western missions said the Security Council would vote on the resolution later on Friday.
Syrians took to the streets across the country in small demonstrations, trusting that the two-day-old truce which is meant to lead to political dialogue would protect them from the army bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months.
Activists said security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters forming major rallies against Assad, even though the plan of U.N.-Arab League envoy Annan says the government should have pulled its troops back.
Protesters questioned Assad’s commitment to the peace plan which he has accepted. In the Qadam district of Damascus, they held up a placard saying: “Bashar may be able to laugh at the whole world - except for the Syrian people”. Another read: “The new comedy is the ceasefire”.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the anti-Assad Local Coordination Committees said two people were killed as marchers tried to converge on a central square in the city of Hama.
Troops also shot one person dead as worshippers left a mosque in Nawa in the southern Deraa province, where the uprising began. Security forces killed a third in the town of Salqeen in the northwestern province of Idlib, they said, and a fourth died in Deraya, Damascus province.
However, Syria’s state news agency SANA blamed two of the deaths on the opposition, saying an “armed terrorist group” shot dead the man in Salqeen and attributing the death of the Hama protester to a shot fired by a fellow demonstrator.