Five killed as Syrian protesters test cease-fire | News | DW | 13.04.2012
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Five killed as Syrian protesters test cease-fire

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Syria in a test of the fragile truce. Security forces reportedly shot dead at least five people rattling the two-day old cease-fire.

Syrians took to the streets across the country in demonstrations after Friday prayers responding to opposition calls to take advantage of the UN-backed cease-fire.

Security forces used guns and tear gas and beat some protestors, but refrained from wide-scale shelling or other actions that would violate the truce.

"Today the Syrian people will test the regime of [President] Bashar al-Assad," Abu Kamal, a resident in the town of Zabadani on the outskirts of Damascus told the DPA news agency.

Security forces were reported to have been out in force, at times using gunfire to block major protests from taking place. Activists said they killed five protesters.

Opposition members estimated that tens of thousands took part in the nationwide protests.

Isolated clashes

The cease-fire, which came into effect on Thursday, was still largely holding, though clashes were reported on Syria's border with Turkey on Friday.

"Fighting with heavy machine guns took place in Khirbet al-Joz, located on the Turkish border, between regime soldiers and [army] deserters," Rami Abdel Rahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

Syrian soldiers are seen near their truck at the Wadi Khalid area near the Syrian border, in northern Lebanon

Troops near the Lebanese border were involved in skirmishes on Thursday

The Local Coordination committees also reported heavy gunfire in the border village.

Violence on Thursday killed at least eight people, activists said.

These reports were impossible to verify due to severe restrictions on journalists in the country.

Regime fails to pull out troops

While the fighting has died down, critics noted that the Syrian government had not ordered its troops back to their barracks as agreed under the plan. This may be part of the reason the truce is viewed with widespread skepticism.

Following a meeting of G8 foreign ministers in Washington, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called on the Syrian government to implement this and all other measures it committed itself to when it agreed to the cease-fire plan.

Watch video 01:25

Violence mars cease-fire

"The burden of fully and visibly meeting all of these obligations continues to rest with the regime. They cannot pick and choose. For it to be meaningful, this apparent halt in violence must lead to a credible political process and a peaceful, inclusive democratic transition."

The UN Security Council, meanwhile, appeared set to approve a plan to send an advance mission of a couple of dozen observers to Syria. Diplomats said the Security Council could vote on a resolution to approve the mission as soon as this Friday.

ncy/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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