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Syrian truce eroding as first U.N. monitors head to Damascus
Question of the Day
“Intense shelling on the neighborhood since early hours of the morning,” said a man narrating the video. “Where are the Muslims and Arabs?” he said, referring to the decision of the international community, including the Arab world, not to intervene directly in Syria, as it did last year in Libya. “See the columns of fire rising from the district,” he wailed. “Mortar shells are falling on us while you watch.”
“If you saw Homs right now, you wouldn’t recognize it,” added Yazan, the activist, who only gave his first name for fear of regime retribution. “You walk around, and it’s not unusual to find dead people in cars on the street,” he said, describing rubble-strewn streets and badly damaged buildings.
Overall, the Observatory reported the deaths of 10 civilians Sunday, including the three killed in Homs, a shooting death near Damascus and the discovery of six bodies. The LCC put the death toll on the opposition side at 23. Since the start of the cease-fire, the daily death toll has been significantly lower than in the preceding weeks, when dozens were reported killed every day.
The regime has portrayed the uprising as a foreign-led conspiracy of criminals and Islamic militants, denying it has widespread popular support.
On Sunday, SANA reported several bombings and shootings by “armed terrorists” that it said killed a member of the security forces in the province of Idlib, two civilians in the central Hama region and a security guard in the southern Daraa district.
The U.N. observers are to arrive in Damascus late Sunday and will be “on the ground in blue helmets tomorrow,” said Mr. Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi. He said the team will grow quickly to between 25 and 30, drawn from the region and elsewhere. However, the terms of deployment of the larger contingent of 250 still have to be negotiated, he said.
Mr. Annan’s peace plan says a truce and the deployment of observers must be followed by talks between the regime and the opposition about Syria’s political future. It’s the first peace initiative to have broad backing, including from Russia and China, which shielded the regime from Security Council condemnation in the past.
Syrian officials said Foreign Minister Walid Moallem would arrive in China on Tuesday for a two-day visit. Last week, Mr. Moallem met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.
Many remain skeptical about Mr. Assad’s intentions and said he would like try to sabotage the peace plan whenever possible. Opposition leaders argue that if Mr. Assad were to comply fully, including withdrawing troops and allowing peaceful political protests, he quickly could lose control and speed up his political demise.
“It appears that Assad will be able to finesse the situation by agreeing to cease-fires, using the period before the cease-fire takes effect to pummel the opposition strongholds, and then stonewall on negotiations once they begin,” said William Keylor of Boston University.
Associated Press writer Zeina Karam in Beirut contributed to this article.
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