133 die in Syria despite agreement on ceasef ire
AT LEAST 133 civilians were killed across Syria yesterday in one of the bloodiest days since the start of a year-long uprising, despite a ceasefire deadline agreed by president Bashar al-Assad to pull forces out of towns and cities by Tuesday.
Monitors inside Syria said more than 30 died in al-Latamneh, a suburb of the city of Hama, as a result of government shelling, while video said to be from Homs seemed to show 13 victims of a mass execution.
The United States also posted online satellite images of troop deployments that cast further doubt on whether the Assad regime intends to comply with an internationally-sponsored peace plan.
Assad has accepted a cease-fire deadline brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which calls for his forces to pull out of towns and cities by Tuesday and for both government and rebels to lay down their arms by 6am local time on Thursday.
But the escalating violence of the past few days has fuelled accusations that Assad is rushing to stamp out as much opposition as he can before pulling out troops as agreed. UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned the regime not to use the impending truce as an “excuse for killing”.
The Syrian government said it has begun to withdraw forces ahead of Tuesday but activists said no significant pull-outs have taken place and troops, checkpoints and snipers remain in almost all major flashpoint towns and cities.
“They are systematically trying to crush the revolt wherever they can and regardless of the human cost,” said activist Mohammad Saeed, in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said the regime appeared to have pulled back some of its forces but in many places had kept in place or simply shifted around troops and armoured vehicles.
He said he was basing his information on satellite images before and after the alleged pull-outs, which were posted on the US embassy Facebook page yesterday. Arrests, sweeps, and the artillery bombardment of opposition strongholds have continued.
“This is not the reduction in offensive Syrian government security operations that all agree must be the first step for the Annan initiative to succeed,” the statement said.
“The regime and the Syrian people should know that we are watching. The regime cannot hide the truth.”
Western leaders along with the Syrian opposition have cast doubt on Assad’s intentions, suggesting he is playing for time and is not serious about the plan. The regime has launched bloody offensives in several parts of Syria in the past few days in a desperate attempt to crush the rebels.
Opposition groups said at least 133 people were killed yesterday, most in government shelling and clashes in the village of al-Latamneh in the central Hama province. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed in the nearby Tibet al-Imam area.
An amateur video posted onlinet showed al-Latamneh residents crying “Allahu Akbar” as they held up the dead girl. The video also showed bodies covered in white sheets. In the nearby province of Homs, activists also reported shelling.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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