BEIRUT, Lebanon (AFP) – Syrian government troops killed at least one civilian on Thursday, April 19, as clashes erupted in a string of protests centers a week into a fragile UN-backed truce, a Britain-based watchdog said.
Three civilians were wounded when security forces opened fire in the northeastern oil city of Deir Ezzor before clashes erupted between troops and rebel fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“An assault by government forces on the Al-Tob neighborhood of Deir Ezzor killed one civilian and wounded three, and fighting is now raging between troops and deserters,” the group said in a statement.
It also reported clashes in Daraa, south of Damascus, cradle of the 13-month uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, as well as in the flashpoint central province of Homs.
“A shell is falling every five minutes on the town of Qusayr (north of Homs city) as government troops carry out raids in the eastern part of the town,” the Observatory said.
In Homs itself, heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard in several neighborhoods.
The violence came despite the week-old ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan and as UN chief Ban Ki-Moon called for the deployment of a larger military observer mission to monitor the tenuous truce.
Although the number of casualties has gone down since the truce went into effect, the violence has continued unabated despite assurances by Syrian authorities they would respect the ceasefire.
Violence on Wednesday killed 30 people, 22 of them civilians, the Observatory said.
In a report to be discussed by the Security Council on Thursday, the UN chief said he wanted 300 unarmed observers sent on a three-month mission, adding that it was “critical” that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime adhere to the agreed peace plan.
Ban’s report, obtained by AFP, said that even though Syrian troops have not been withdrawn from cities and violence has escalated since the ceasefire began last Thursday, “an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we need to build.”
An observer advance party which arrived in the Syrian capital on Sunday headed out from its Damascus base on Thursday but declined to say where it was going.
“We don’t discuss our plan for security raison,” said its leader, Colonel Ahmed Himmiche of Morocco.
Himmiche declined to be drawn on negotiations with the Syrian government on a protocol to govern the mission’s operations.
“We are military observers so I’m not dealing with the diplomatic case at all. We are doing the operations,” he said. – Agence France-Presse