Syrian cease fire appears dead as fighting rages

With the cease fire deadline 24 hours away, it doesn't look like President Assad - or the rebels - have any intention to stop fighting.

Clashes spilled over into Turkey, as fears that the war would widen appear to be justified.


Syria's conflict spilled over into Turkey on Monday and government forces battled rebel fighters near the border in clashes that appeared to doom a ceasefire less than 24 hours before a U.N.-brokered deadline for a Syrian army pull-back.

Under a deal brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, Syria is to begin withdrawing troops from around urban centers by Tuesday, paving the way for a truce to start 48 hours later.

But the prospect of a ceasefire looked increasingly dim, with no let-up in violence around the country where forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have battled to crush a popular revolt against his rule for more than a year.

In a last-minute move, Assad has demanded written guarantees from opposition fighters that they put down their weapons, prompting Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru to say that the April 10 deadline was now effectively void.

"April 10 has become void. After Kofi Annan's visit tomorrow (to Turkey) a new stage will start," state-run broadcaster TRT quoted Koru as saying on its website.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said through a spokesman that "adding new conditions at this stage is totally unacceptable".

Less than 24 hours before the deadline, fierce fighting raged on the ground, with two Syrian refugees and a Turkish translator wounded by gunfire from Syria at a refugee camp on Turkish territory, according to Turkish officials.

It was not clear if the camp was deliberately targeted or hit by stray bullets.

A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said that over 1,000 people - most of them civilians - had been killed in the fighting over the last week. That number seems a little high - other sources that have been reliable in the past have given figures half that large - but it is clear that hundreds have been slaughtered with many mass executions committed by the Assad regime.

What next? The UN will probably move the goalposts, altering the cease fire deadline to see if Kofi Annan can convince Assad to pull back. That isn't likely as long as the rebels are attacking his soldiers.

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