Syria urged to fully respect UN truce plan

UN-Arab League says heavy weaponry remains in populated areas as both sides report violations of the truce.

International envoy Kofi Annan has criticised Syria for failing to implement the UN Security Council demand that it withdraw troops and heavy weapons from populated areas, as the opposition and authorities reported violations of a ceasefire.

Diplomats said Annan told the council he had received unconfirmed reports of sporadic violence in some cities after the truce took effect on Thursday morning, but said this was not unusual in the early hours of a cessation of hostilities.

UN peacekeepers

Diplomats at the United Nations Security Council are debating a draft resolution that would established a preliminary, 30-strong unarmed military observer force in Syria aimed at implementing the ceasefire plan negotiated by envoy Kofi Annan. Read the draft here.

“What has happened today does not constitute full compliance by the Syrian government,” Annan was quoted as saying by video link from Geneva. “Syrian troops and armour must return to their barracks immediately.”

Syrian UN envoy Bashar Jaafari said Damascus already had complied with calls to withdraw troops from towns and called on its opponents to honour the ceasefire, saying there had been eight violations by armed groups on Thursday morning.

The UN Security Council is discussing a resolution which could lead to the deployment of up to 200 observers to Syria to monitor its compliance with the plan.

“What they want to do first is send about 20-30 advance monitors into Syria,” Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner, reporting from the UN, said. “For its part, the Syrian government says it has nothing to hide, and they’re happy to approve of this advance monitoring team.”

South Africa’s UN Ambassador Baso Sangqu said discussions on the text of a UN resolution authorising the deployment would begin on Thursday afternoon, and diplomats said it could be adopted as early as Friday.

The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would authorise an advance element of up to 30 unarmed military observers and demand that the government ensure their “full and unimpeded freedom of movement throughout Syria” and guarantee the mission’s ability to interview any individual “freely or in private”.

Aleppo blast

The Annan six-point peace plan requires that both government forces and opposition fighters stop attacks.

Syria’s SANA state news agency on Thursday reported a bomb attack on a military bus in the northern city of Aleppo.

“An armed terrorist group used an explosive device to target a bus transporting officers and non-commissioned officers to their unit in Aleppo,” it said. “It killed a lieutenant colonel and wounded 24 other people.”

Al Jazeera’s Cath Turner reports on latest developments at UN

Colonel Kassem Saadeddine, a spokesman for the opposition Free Syrian Army, denied any involvement in the attack.

“The Free Syrian Army has nothing to do with any attacks. What is reported by SANA is propaganda,” he said.

“This act is a manoeuvre by the regime to avoid fulfilling its commitment and say that the Free Syrian Army violated the truce … Security forces and shabiha [thugs] are behind these acts.”

Meanwhile, activists reported sporadic violence in several cities and uploaded footage of tanks still deployed in residential areas.

Abu Abdo Alhomsy, an activist in the opposition stronghold of Homs, told Al Jazeera that at least six people had been killed in the neighbourhoods of Qusour and Dair Balaba, by snipers, machine guns and mortars.

“Snipers and army vehicles are everywhere,” he said.

In the city of Hama, activists said not much had changed after the ceasefire. Tanks and snipers were still deployed and troops were manning checkpoints, they said.

Protests called

Burhan Ghalioun, the exiled head of the Syrian National Council, said he expected demonstrations on Friday after weekly prayers – a feature of the revolt that had been subdued by violence in recent months. But he did not trust the authorities who had their “hand on the trigger”.

Anita McNaught reports from Hatay in Turkey
on the reported violations of the ceasefire

“The Syrian people will go out tomorrow in the biggest possible numbers so that the Syrian people can express their
will,” Ghalioun said.

“While we call on the Syrian people to protest strongly… we ask them to be cautious because the regime will not respect the ceasefire and will shoot.”

The interior ministry said only pre-authorised demonstrations would be permitted by police.

Anti-government protests were held in several locations on Thursday, including in Damascus suburbs, Hama, and Deraa. Protesters demonstrated at the university of Aleppo, where activists said several protesters were beaten and arrested by security forces.

The Local Co-ordination Committees reported intense gunfire in the town of Kattab as security forces dispersed a rally.

The UN says more than 9,000 people have been killed since anti-government protests began in March, 2011. Authorities say about 2,500 security forces and police have been killed.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies