May 19, 2013
Six die as violence mars Syria truce, protests muted
Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shot dead five protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported, while the government said an army officer was killed as violence marred a ceasefire brokered by international peace envoy Kofi Annan.
At the United Nations, Russia said it was not satisfied with a Western-Arab draft resolution authorising an advance UN team to monitor the fragile ceasefire which aims to end 13 months of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad, an ally of Moscow.
The council is tentatively scheduled to vote on the draft on Saturday if Russia can be persuaded to support it.
Syrians took to the streets across the country in small demonstrations, trusting that the two-day-old truce that is meant to lead to political dialogue would protect them from the army bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months.
Activists said security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters mounting major rallies against Assad, even though the plan of UN-Arab League envoy Annan says the government should have pulled its troops back.
Protesters questioned Assad's commitment to the peace plan that he has accepted. In the Qadam district of Damascus, they held up a placard saying: "Bashar may be able to laugh at the whole world - except for the Syrian people".
Another read: "The new comedy is the ceasefire."
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the anti-Assad Local Coordination Committees said two people were killed as marchers tried to converge on a central square in the city of Hama.
Soldiers also shot one person dead as worshippers left a mosque in Nawa in the southern province of Deraa, where the uprising began in March 2011. Security forces killed a fourth in the town of Salqeen in the northwestern province of Idlib, opposition activists said, and a fifth was killed in Deraya, Damascus province.
However, Syria's state news agency SANA blamed two of the deaths on the opposition, saying an "armed terrorist group" shot dead the man in Salqeen and attributing the death of one Hama protester to a shot fired by a fellow demonstrator.
SANA also said "terrorists" shot an army major dead as he drove to work. Armed groups were seeking to "destroy any effort to find a political solution to the crisis" in Syria, it said.
The United Nations estimates that Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising began. Authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed militants who they say have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and police.