Killing continues in Syria despite cease fire and UN monitors' arrival

There are cracks all over the country in President Assad's adherence to the cease fire, but the situation in Homs is especially brutal.


Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shelled residential districts in the central city of Homs before United Nations military observers arrive in the country to monitor a cease-fire.

Five people died in Homs today, including three killed during shelling, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. Government forces and rebels clashed in the Aleppo area, where a police station was attacked with bombs, the U.K. based rights group said. Syrian forces killed 13 people today, Al Jazeera reported.

The UN's 15-member Security Council voted unanimously yesterday to dispatch a first wave of monitors and urged Syria to "implement visibly its commitments" to a six-point cease- fire plan from UN special envoy Kofi Annan. A bigger mission will follow, if conditions allow it.

The truce was already being tested as the UN's most powerful body passed its first binding measures to stem a 13- month-old conflict that has killed more than 9,000 according to UN estimates. Inspired by revolts that toppled leaders in Egypt and Libya, the Syrian uprising is evolving into a civil war with sectarian undertones.

Syrian authorities will prevent continued "criminal attacks," state television reported, citing an unidentified military official. Attacks against civilians have escalated since the UN approved the deployment of observers, it said. Syria's government told the UN it would abide by the cease-fire, though it reserved the right to respond to any attacks.

About the only good news is that the level of violence has declined and the casualties have been reduced by 2/3. But this lull is hardly proof that Assad is ready to talk to the opposition, nor are there indications that the opposition has changed its mind about talking to Assad.

The cease fire seems to be more useful as a way for both sides to catch their breath before the next round begins.

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