Syria street protests met with force (LA TIMES) By Alexandra Sandels BEIRUT, LEBANON 04/21/12)
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On a day when U.N. monitors are missing, Syria government forces try
to prevent demonstrations, firing on protesters in some cases,
activists say. Continued shelling and at least 57 deaths are reported.
BEIRUT ó Large antigovernment demonstrations filled the streets of
Syria on Friday despite reports of regime forces trying to prevent
them from forming and, in other instances, shooting at protesters as
an announced cease-fire continued to unravel.
Activists said security forces fired bullets and tear gas at
protesters in several areas across the country, ignoring the
government´s agreement to a peace plan that guarantees the right to
demonstrate. Shelling also continued in Homs province, and at least
57 people were reported killed across the country.
State media reported that a roadside bomb in a village near the
border with Israel killed 10 law enforcement personnel, and two other
people were killed elsewhere in the country. The attacks constituted
more "breaches" of the peace plan by the opposition, according to the
official Syrian Arab News Agency.
But United Nations observers who are in Syria to monitor the
implementation of the cease-fire and peace plan were nowhere to be
seen because the team has decided not to patrol on Fridays, which is
the biggest day of demonstrations.
"Having them on the streets always changes the dynamics," said Ahmad
Fawzi, spokesman for the U.N.´s special envoy, Kofi Annan. "It either
gets more violent or less violent."
The head of the U.N. team, Moroccan Col. Ahmed Himmiche, told Al
Jazeera TV network, "We don´t want to be used as a tool for
escalating the situation."
The decision to limit its monitoring risks undermining the U.N.
mission and its ability to quell violence in the 13-month uprising,
especially after the team came under fire at a protest in a suburb of
the capital, Damascus, on Wednesday and two people were reported
killed in Dara minutes after the monitors left.
There were only seven monitors in the country Friday, and two more
are expected to arrive Monday, Fawzi said. He said he hoped to have
30 of the U.N. observers by next week. The monitors are being pulled
from other missions in the region and are being sent as soon as they
can be released, he said.
It was not clear when the U.N. Security Council would take up the
resolution proposed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a full
supervision mission of 300 monitors. A larger mission isn´t expected
to arrive in Syria for weeks, Fawzi said.
Meanwhile, the situation in the country continues to slide back to
where it was before the cease-fire, especially in places where the
monitors have yet to visit, such as Homs, Hama and Idlib.
"We hope that they will be better than the Arab monitors," said an
activist in a suburb of Hama, referring to an earlier Arab League
effort. "I don´t know what the international community is offering.
We are giving the initiative a chance and we are complying, but we
are being killed."
In the town of Qusair in Homs province, a spontaneous demonstration
was held amid continued bombardment, with two shells falling every
minute and several residents being killed, activists said. Across the
province, activists reported 21 deaths.
"Where are the international observers, where is the Security
Council?" asked one activist in a video said to have been shot Friday
in Homs. "They are not coming to Homs." Sandels is a special
correspondent. (Copyright © 2012 Los Angeles Times 04/21/12)
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