Syrian forces keep up attacks, despite agreeing to ceasefire
Syria has promised to observe a UN-backed ceasefire starting today, but its forces yesterday kept up fierce attacks on opposition neighbourhoods in the hours before the deadline.
The Syrian defence ministry yesterday said the army would halt operations this morning, but would confront “any assault” by armed groups.
However, there was no mention of withdrawing troops from urban areas – something that was supposed to start on Tuesday under a peace plan agreed with international envoy Kofi Annan. Even as the ceasefire pledge was being broadcast, activists were reporting more tanks moving in to a major city.
A spokesman for Mr Annan, mandated by the United Nations and Arab League, said the Syrian government had given the former UN secretary general an assurance it would stop fighting by the dawn deadline he has set for a cessation of hostilities.
Quoting from a letter to Mr Annan from the Syrian foreign ministry, his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the government had undertaken “to cease all military fighting throughout Syrian territory as of 6am Thursday, 12 April, 2012, while reserving the right to respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups”.
Western powers have scorned Assad’s truce pledges, but so far lack an effective policy to curb the bloodshed, given their aversion to military intervention and the resistance of Russia and China to any UN action.
Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday: “Far from fulfilling their commitment, the regime has cynically exploited the window of diplomatic negotiations to crack down even harder on its own people.”.
The insurgents have previously said they will stop shooting if Syrian forces pull back and observe the truce as promised. But few believe Mr Assad has any intention of complying with Mr Annan’s plan.
“Annan, this is your ceasefire,” ran the sarcastic voiceover on an activist video that showed a Homs shopping mall burning after it was shelled.
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