Syrian forces kill 9 ahead of UN observer vote
AFP DAMASCUS SYRIAN forces killed nine people and shelled rebel areas of Homs on Saturday ahead of a UN Security Council vote on a Western-drafted resolution that would send observers to monitor a shaky truce now in its third day.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad killed four civilians as they opened fire at a funeral procession of a demonstrator in Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. State television aired footage of youths burning tyres and hurling stones in the Aleppo district of Izaa, and accused gunmen of fanning out in the area and opening fire at random.
Troops also shelled the Jurat al Shayah and Al Qarabis districts of the central city of Homs, killing one civilian, the Observatory said.
Except for the old quarters, where dissidents remain active, regime forces control most of Homs since they overran the rebel stronghold district of Baba Amr at the beginning of last month.
Farther south, in the town of Dmeir outside Damascus, security forces opened fire on a car, killing one civilian and wounding two, the watchdog said. Meanwhile, two soldiers were killed in an attack on their car in the southern province of Daraa, the Observatory said.
“In general, it is quiet, except for some violations (of the ceasefire),” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
“The numbers of people being killed are down, and that is something positive.” The latest deaths came after six civilians were killed on Friday as tens of thousands of people protested across Syria, heeding calls by the opposition to test the UN-backed truce that came into force at dawn on Thursday. On Saturday, demonstrations were staged in several areas, according to videos posted on the Internet by activists.
“Activate the revolution. It is ours. Syria is free,” chanted hundreds of people in the village of Kfar Roma, in the northern province of Idlib.
In Daraa province, the cradle of dissent against Assad’s regime, hundreds turned out in the village of Inkhel.
“We shall not give up until the regime falls,” they chanted.
The US called for a vote at the UN Security Council after a second day of wrangling with Russia over security guarantees for the first 30 unarmed military monitors UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan wants in Syria early next week.
But the Russian foreign ministry said Saturday that the Security Council has “practically agreed” the resolution.
“The resolution on the deployment into Syria of a UN monitoring mission advance group has been practically agreed for adoption at the UN Security Council,” it said.
Russia opposed a council demand that Assad’s regime carry out its promise to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from towns and cities, which is part of the Annan peace deal.
Moscow’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said negotiations had been “rather difficult,” but insisted that Russia wants a vote on Saturday that allows the Syrian ceasefire to be “reinforced.” Russia and China have vetoed two previous Security Council resolutions on Syria. Neither the US nor its allies are certain that the resolution will escape a new veto.
“It would be wise not to make predictions,” said US Ambassador Susan Rice.
“There was a negotiation, there is not yet an agreement,” French Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters. “It’s very tough, but there will be a vote tomorrow in any case.”