Live blog: Syria violence deadline
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The UN's April 10 deadline to end the violence in Syria has arrived, but will it be implemented?
Reports of fighting between government troops and rebels continue as Damascus renews its pledge to UN special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.
We are going to bring our live blog to a close today, but here is a round-up of the key events.
- Activists claimed government forces attacked Homs, Hama and other areas of the country, while the government has said "terrorists" refused to put down their weapons.
- Kofi Annan has refused to abandon his six-point peace plan, despite strong evidence that Thursday's 6am deadline for a national ceasefire will be missed. Speaking earlier Annan said the plan was "very much alive."
- The Syrian government has said it is withdrawing some of its forces ahead of the deadline, but has demanded that Annan get promises from the opposition that they will surrender their weapons.
- Two leading opposition groups have slammed the government, with a spokesman for the Syrian National Council saying Annan's plan "needs to be revisited."
- The International Committee of the Red Cross have confirmed that they have been unable to get access to Baba Amr in Homs, where government forces continue to clash with rebels.
- France and the UK criticized Assad's government, while Russia urged Damascus to be "more active" in seeking to end the bloodshed.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 19:32
Elsewhere the names of over 700 Syrian soldiers killed in the first six months of the uprising were released today.
Among the 721 that the government says died between March 18 and November 24 were three senior generals, 14 colonels, 15 lieutenant colonels, a major and three captains.
The letter was sent to the United Nations by Syria's UN mission in December but an annex giving the names and ranks of the dead was only released on Tuesday.
The three brigadier generals killed include Adnan Zaydan Dib, a top officer in the Syrian special forces who was wounded in Homs in August and died in hospital the following month, according to the letter.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 18:56
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has been trying to get access to Baba Amr in Homs for the past month, has again confirmed that they have not been able to get access to the battle scarred area.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, the group's Damascus spokesperson Rabab Al-Rifai confirmed that there had still been no access to Baba Amr, despite the deadline for the cessation of violence.
"As we speak we have a team in Homs that is providing humanitarian assistance but not in all areas," she said.
"We are in the city of Homs and this is the second convoy that reaches the city since the beginning of April. Another two convoys are planned over the coming couple of weeks."
The medical aid group have been asking the Syrian government to grant them access to injured civilians in the area for over a month, but military forces have prevented them entering.
Asked whether the ICRC had given up hope of reaching Baba Amr, Al-Rifai said most of the civilians had moved to other areas.
"A lot of people have left their areas, including in Baba Amr."
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 18:33
Kofi Annan has just spoken at a press conference in Turkey and has denied that his peace plan is in tatters following the failure of government troops to withdraw from all cities.
Annan said there was still time to achieve peace before Thursday's full deadline.
"It is a bit too early to say that the plan has failed. The plan is still on the table and it is a plan we are all fighting to implement," he said.
"The plan is very much alive and if you want to take it off the table what would you replace it with?"
He admitted, however, that government forces had been attacking areas that had previously been left alone.
He said his team had received reports indicating " there are movements to other areas that have not previously been targets... which we believe should stop."
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 17:09
Interesting to note how the world's media differ on the reporting of the crisis in Syria depending of their country of origin.
Russia has continued to back Assad despite international pressure and the country's state media Russia Today has a positive spin on events, with the headline "Syrian govt: ‘We have begun troop withdrawal.’" Press TV – Iranian state media – offers a similarly upbeat assessment with "Syria’s Muallem: Damascus has begun implementing Annan plan."
In the West, where the governments are pushing for Assad to step down, the tone is more critical. The BBC says "Syria clashes blight ceasefire hopes" while the US-based The Washington Post focuses on the violence affecting neighboring countries, saying Syrian violence spills into Lebanon and Turkey.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 16:37
Two European countries have condemned Assad for failing to meet the deadline.
France, which ruled Syria until independence in 1946, has said the government's claim that it has abided by the ceasefire is a "blatant and unacceptable lie."
"The Syrian foreign minister's statements this morning affirming an initial implementation of the Annan plan by the Damascus regime are a fresh expression of this blatant and unacceptable lie," foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told journalists.
British foreign secretary William Hague, meanwhile, also released a statement condemning the government for failing to stop the killing.
"There is no evidence so far that the Assad regime has any intention of adhering to any agreement it makes."
Neither statement condemned the armed opposition for continuing to use force, but Hague said he was willing to increase support for those seeking to destroy the regime.
"We will be ready to intensify our support for the Syrian opposition, and to support others seeking to do the same. And we will begin the process of seeking the referral by the security council of the situation in Syria to the international criminal court."
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 16:14
Talking of the increasingly vitriolic online media campaign by both pro and anti-regime activists (2.12), Twitter remains the forum for people of all political persuasions to express their views on the situation.
Linda Juniper accuses the West of wanting to destroy the Assad regime no matter what while @manseydoll says the US has no interest in peace.
Others blame Assad purely for the crackdown. Hisham Melham implies that Assad is not interested in peace while Ruwayda Mustafah blames the slide towards civil war on the regime alone.
Syria will become a full-scale civil war if immediate measures are not taken to stop President Assad from killing protesters.— Ruwayda Mustafah (@RuwaydaMustafah) April 9, 2012
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:43
In a statement earlier (1.49) Syria's foreign minister said Kofi Annan had said in a recent telephone call that a ceasefire in the country would be followed by disarming of the rebels.
If this is the case then it appears that Annan may not have told the opposition.
The Reuters wire is reporting that a spokesman for the rebels has denied that the issue of disarming has ever been raised with them by Annan.
Colonel Qassem Saad al-Deen, spokesman of the joint command of the Free Syrian Army inside Syria, also said the rebels will fight on if Assad does not pull back his troops and tanks from in and around cities by Thursday – in line with the peace plan.
The Western-backed opposition has also rejected the government's new conditions, whereby they would have to disarm for peace to be achieved.
A spokesman for the Syrian National Council, which is unpopular with many activists inside Syria who accuse it of pushing for foreign intervention, said that new conditions set by the Damascus regime for it to comply with were "unacceptable."
SNC spokeswoman Bassma Kodmani told reporters in Geneva that the conditions were "unacceptable by any standard."
"I do not see that they can be acceptable to the Kofi Annan mission," she added.
She added that Annan's plan "needs to be revisited" if there is no progress in implementing the ceasefire by Thursday.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:32
The opposition Local Coordination Committees have released a statement condemning the regime for failing to abide by the ceasefire.
It warns of escalation if violence continues and says government attacks have been more common in recent days, despite the impending deadline.
The LCC assist in organizing protests inside Syria, and are a member of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council.
"The criminal regime’s intentional non-compliance with the Six-Point Plan has been exposed: it has increased its direct military, security and shabiha deployments on the ground," the statement says.
"It has increased the number and expansion of military operations in dozens of cities and towns, including the heart of the capital Damascus; the number of martyrs, prisoners, and refugees has risen; the regime has continued to implement such sadistic practices as rape, setting fire to the homes of activists, and indiscriminately bombing cities, towns, and villages with heavy weapons; the regime has also failed to enter into a political discourse and has suppressed the media."
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 15:22
Several hundred attended the funeral today of slain Lebanese journalist Ali Shaaban, who was killed when his Al-Jadeed television crew came under fire near the Syrian border.
Mourners carry the coffin of Lebanese cameraman Ali Shaaban during his funeral in the southern village of Mayfadun on 10 April 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mahmoud Zayyat)
Al-Jadeed have accused the Syrian army of killing Shaaban.
Cameraman Abdel Azim Khayat, who was with Shaaban when he died, described the incident to Al-Akhbar.
Khayyat said their car was hit with many bullets while “members of al-Hajjana nearby began shouting to the soldiers on an opposite hill, asking them to cease fire. But to no avail.”
Reporter Hussein Khreis, who hid behind the car to avoid the barrage of bullets, gave his recollection.
“I am not a soldier to be able to act in such a situation. My colleague Abed [Abdel Azim] Khayyat tried to save the other cameraman and so did the mayor’s brother who was with us,” he said.
Syrian state media said that Syrian border guards came under fire by an "armed terrorist group" at the same time as the Al-Jadeed crew was in the area.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 14:39
As Syria is pressed to halt the violence, leaders of the opposition's prime backers, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, will meet to discuss their next step this Friday, a Saudi official said on Tuesday.
"The Syrian issue is top of the agenda," the official said in confirming that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan would hold talks with King Abdullah in Riyadh at the end of the week.
A Turkish newspaper said Erdogan would fly there directly on Thursday on his way home from an official visit to China.
Saudi Arabia has taken a hardline stance against Syria, pushing for the arming of Islamist rebels, while Turkey has hinted at sending in forces to establish a buffer zone along its border.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 14:23
The social media war between pro and anti-regime activists is in full swing today, with both sides posting videos to portray their version of events inside Syria.
Below is an unconfirmed video which claims to show shelling in an urban area, said to be Khadaliya in Homs.
It claims to show attacks by the government today, but it is not clear where the shelling is coming from.
Pro-regime activists, on the other hand, have uploaded a video today claiming to debunk an earlier YouTube clip which said the Free Syrian Army had captured an army helicopter.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 14:12
More comments coming in from the Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem, who is in Moscow for talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Speaking at a press conference, Muallem demanded that Kofi Annan get guarantees from the armed opposition that they will put down their weapons, adding that they could not negotiate directly with the opposition.
"We will not ask the terrorist groups, which are killing, kidnapping and destroying infrastructure, for guarantees. We want Annan to give us these guarantees," he told reporters in Moscow.
Syrian state media reported Muallem as saying that the opposition had increased their attacks in the run-up to the deadline.
He also said that Annan told him in a recent telephone call that a ceasefire in the country would be followed by disarming of the rebels.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 13:49
Russia's foreign minister this morning urged the Syrian government and the opposition to implement Annan's peace plan.
Moscow has long supported President Assad against what they have described as a foreign-led insurgency, but FM Sergei Lavrov this morning said that the country could be "more active" and "more decisive" in implementing Annan's plan.
Lavrov also called on foreign powers to influence opposition groups to adhere to the ceasefire.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 13:27
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Syria for a "clear violation of the border" after gunfire from Syria wounded four Syrians and two Turkish staff at a refugee camp across the border on Monday.
Noting the seriousness of the situation, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu left China to return to Turkey to address the increasing volatility along its Syrian border.
"Obviously we will take the necessary measures," Erdogan said.
Erdogan said his country will "use its rights as granted by international law," but did not specify whether he was planning to establish a buffer zones inside the border, as floated by Turkish media.
Turkey's been a prominent supporter of the Syrian opposition, hosting armed rebels and political opposition groups.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 13:19
- Tags: syria
Syria's foreign minister said on Tuesday that the government had started withdrawing troops in line with the peace plan.
Walid Muallem, speaking during a trip to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said troops were withdrawing from cities.
"I told my Russian colleague of the steps Syria is taking to show its goodwill for the implementation of the Annan plan."
"We have already withdrawn military units from different Syrian provinces."
Muallem added that the ceasefire was being undermined by foreign states such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar who have committed to supporting the opposition.
"Turkey... supports illegal Syrian militant groups, supplies them with weapons... and lets them illegally cross into Syria. How can we (fulfill the plan) if there are still illegal arms deliveries and moving of militants from Turkey?"
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 13:07
News wires continue to report accounts of violence, starting with shelling in the restive city of Hama at roughly 2am, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory also claimed six Syrian soldiers were killed in rebel attacks on two checkpoints on the highway running through the remote eastern desert town of Marqada, south of the Turkish border.
Syria's official news agency, SANA, has yet to confirm the incident. It is necessary to note that reports of violence are extremely difficult to verify due to the absence of journalists on the ground in Syria.
Media accounts are thus largely reliant on opposition networks such as the Observatory or state media. Despite its reports of violence, the Observatory also said most cities were relatively calm on the day of the deadline.
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 12:59