U.N. votes to send Syria monitors, killings continue

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:24pm EDT

1 of 7. Demonstrators, with the Syrian opposition flags, protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad after Friday prayers in Al Qasseer city, near Homs April 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Shaam News Network/Handout

UNITED NATIONS/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Russia and China joined the rest of the U.N. Security Council on Saturday to authorize deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers to monitor Syria's fragile ceasefire as activists reported more deaths in the country and renewed shelling of Homs.

The resolution by the 15-nation Security Council is the first it has approved since the anti-government uprising in Syria began 13 months ago.

Moscow and Beijing twice vetoed council resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's assault on protesters opposed to his rule that has killed thousands of civilians.

A spokesman for U.N.-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan had said on Friday that the first group of observers was on stand-by and ready to fly to Syria as soon as the council approved their deployment. Annan is planning for an observer force that will have up to 250 monitors.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement released after a meeting in Geneva said the Syrian government had the prime responsibility to stop the violence and withdraw its forces from urban areas in line with Annan's peace plan.

"The Secretary-General reiterated that it is the government of Syria which has the primary responsibility to stop the violence and withdraw its forces," the statement said.

Opposition activists said at least six people were killed in Syria on Saturday and also reported the first shelling, in the city of Homs, by forces loyal to Assad, since the U.N.-Arab League-brokered ceasefire took effect three days ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed during a funeral march in Aleppo, one by shelling in Homs and a sixth succumbed to wounds inflicted by torture in the central town of Rastan, straddling the Damascus-Aleppo road.

A video, shot in a destroyed part of what the cameraman says is the Homs neighborhood of al-Qarabis, showed two tanks rushing through the streets to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions.

"Look with your own eyes. Look, world. Watch what they are doing," the man making the video screams as a tank raises its turret.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said "armed terrorists" killed five people in ambushes around the country on Saturday, and kidnapped a parliamentary candidate from the north.

An army colonel also was kidnapped in the central city of Hama. "Colonel Mohammed Awad's car was intercepted by a terrorist group and he was kidnapped at gunpoint," SANA said.

The Syrian government repeatedly has denied access to journalists, making it impossible to verify the reports independently.

NO SIGN DIVISIONS OVERCOME

Despite Saturday's unanimous vote at the Security Council, there were no signs that the divisions that have prevented it from taking action on the crisis have been overcome.

Syria's close ally and arms supplier Moscow was satisfied with the final draft of the resolution, though Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin made clear that there were limits to the kind of U.N. action Moscow could support.

"Out of respect for the sovereignty of Syria we have cautioned against destructive attempts at external interference or imposing any kind of illusory fixes," he said.

Russia has accused the United States and Europe of tricking it into using a U.N. mandate to protect civilians in Libya to enable NATO engage in "regime change." Russia abstained from a March 2011 vote and allowed a council resolution authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians to pass.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud added that the newfound unity on the council may not be permanent. "Our consensus is fragile," he said.

Before agreeing to support what was originally a U.S.-drafted text, Russia had demanded the U.S. and European delegations dilute it so that it would not "demand" that Syria comply with the resolution. The approved resolution uses softer language so that it "calls upon" Syria to implement it.

Churkin also demanded that the council urge the opposition as well as the Syrian government to change its behavior.

The approved resolution has the council "condemning the widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups, recalling that those responsible shall be held accountable."

It calls on "all parties, including the opposition, immediately to cease all armed violence in all its forms."

The text also includes a vague warning to Damascus, saying the council would "assess the implementation of this resolution and to consider further steps as appropriate."

'50 VIOLATIONS'

Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari reiterated Damascus's commitment to Annan's six-point peace plan, which calls for an end to fighting, withdrawal of troops, dialogue between the government and opposition and a "political transition" for the country.

"The time for violence is gone," he said, though he accused the opposition of "50 violations" of the truce since Thursday.

Annan had asked the council to approve the deployment of an advance team of monitors as soon as possible.

Western council members welcomed the adoption of the resolution but had harsh words for Assad's government.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice condemned what she said was Damascus's "murderous rampage" over the last year, adding that the sporadic violence that has broken out since Thursday's ceasefire casts doubt on the government's commitment to peace.

Asked if the Syrian forces' shelling on Saturday of the battered city of Homs was a violation of the ceasefire, Rice said "absolutely."

VIOLENCE IN ALEPPO, HOMS

State news agency SANA and opposition groups traded blame on Saturday for gunfire in Syria's second city of Aleppo that activists said killed four and wounded three.

In a video, reportedly filmed in the Hay al-Etha neighborhood, the sound of gunfire and an explosion can be heard as men holding the Syrian revolutionary flag and children scatter from what appears to be a demonstration.

SANA said: "Armed terrorist groups spread in Hay al-Etha, opened fire randomly and attacked public and private property."

In another video, dozens of people, some with medical masks wrapped around their faces, run amid the sound gunshots and two men drag an injured man along the street.

"We are in a state of war," the camera-bearer screams before running over to film a young man whose head is dripping with blood.

SANA said its own television building in the same neighborhood was attacked by armed groups, but could not confirm casualties.

"Terrorist groups on Saturday opened fire randomly in al-Etha, attacked public and private properties and beleaguered the TV and Radio headquarters in the city," it said.

Hopes that the truce would put an end to the bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months were quashed when forces loyal to Assad shot dead five protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported.

They said that security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters from mounting major rallies against Assad.

The United Nations estimates that Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising began. Authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed militants who they say have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and police.

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Writing by Oliver Holmes, Editing by Michael Roddy)

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Comments (14)
Fromkin wrote:
It’s encouraging to see an attempt at balance on this article by presenting Syria’s side as reported by SANA.

But there is still a heavy dose of western propaganda when refering to the protesters placards in perfect english which could be the work of that shady organization in London.

When the government organizes rallies there are also placards but Reuters doesn’t tell us what the supporters of the govt say on them. I am pointing this as an example to show how medias continue to manipulate public opinion on this issue. They are willing participants to this regime change project.

The headline is also misleading when it attributes all deaths to security forces without context or proof and when further calling everyone killed as “protesters”.

At this point we all know that the people that security forces are confronting are not(all) peaceful protesters, many are armed gangs taking adventage of protests to attack the police and the army.

In this article it’s even said that there were small opposition rallies in many areas. The new constitution allows peaceful protests. Sana reports opposition propests almost daily in Syria without people being killed. Protesters at times are dispersed when they illegally gather but not killed. Those who get killed engage in deadly armed confrotation with security forces.

If it wasn’t for the ongoing foreign intervention syria would be peaceful now.

The reason protests are muted is that syrians are now able to see through western deception. They were protesting in huge numbers for more freedom and democracy not sharia laws. Most of their demands are being implemented by the government now. That’s why, to the chagrin of the West, the protests have shrinked.

This explains why Syria’s attackers are using Annan Plan to reorganize their failed strategy and also reorganize defeated armed gangs in disarray.

This article portrays each of these atackers here and its role: The US(using its turn at UNSC presidency to push a UN resolution against Syria), Turkey, Sarkozy, Erdogan, Saudi arabia,UK(through the bogus SOHR), Jordania…Everyone playing its regime change part.

No change in their attitude. They just want to overthrow a government not abiding to them. If they can continue this game without sacrificing more innocent civilians more power to them.

Apr 13, 2012 10:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
azereta wrote:
The insurgents have demonstrated no respect for the truce and that is asking for a response, Please no money or arms for this nasty terrorists who couldn’t care less of who gets hurt .

Apr 13, 2012 11:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Austell wrote:
Reuters you are the only news organization in the world calling them:

“Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad”

This has bee ridiculed internationally as a propaganda drive to de-legitimize the Syrian government.

THEY ARE CALLED ‘THE SYRIAN ARMY’ !!!!!!!!!!

And where is your evidence that 6 protestors were shot???

Ohhh!!!! That’s right you rely on totaly compromised terrorist sources calling a fake organization in London funded by the US government by phone for your information!!

Why do you refuse to admit just how bad an information source you have???

Is it because if you did you wouldn’t be able to print/sell any news??

This is fraud!!

This is FAKE information coming from a TERRORIST source with zero legitimacy and zero accountibility.

In a court of law this is what they would call ‘hear say’ information. And even worse, from a source VICIOUSLY opposed to the Syrian government and 110% bias.

Never in my life have I seen a ‘professional’ media network so reliant on such an absolutely fictitious source of information.

You are destroying your reputation on this one reuters, and everything you report after this event is over will be referenced back to ‘the syria situation’ which proved you are nothing but a propaganda mouthpiece for US imperialism.

Using these Islamic militants as a source of information against Assad is like using Al Qaeda as a source against the American government!!!

I don’t think I’ll ever see such astonishing propaganda in the rest of the 21st century… lets pray we don’t anyway!!

100% WARMEDIA NETWORK

Apr 13, 2012 12:27am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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