Syrian forces have shelled the city of Homs, breaking the cease-fire that has been in place since Thursday, according to sources. The allegations come as the UN votes on a resolution to send in international observers.
Syrian forces shelled two neighborhoods in the battered city of Homs on Friday night and into Saturday morning according to human rights activists, the first bombings to occur since a precarious cease-fire was implemented Thursday.
"There was shelling last night in the old part of the city, in Jouret al-Shiyah and al-Qaradis. And I have heard eight shells fall in the past hour," Karm Abu Rabea, a local activist, said on Saturday.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said shelling had occurred overnight, wounding several.
A UN resolution in the pipeline
Meanwhile the UN Security Council is due to vote later on Saturday on a resolution that would enable a ceasefire observer mission to be despatched to Syria, though Russian support remains in doubt.
As fresh questions over the Syrian government's honoring of the cease-fire come to the fore, the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council are reviewing a resolution that would see international observers enter the country to monitor the situation.
The resolution, drafted by the United States and co-sponsored by Britain, France, Germany, Portugal and Morocco, seeks to put up to 30 unarmed UN observers on the ground to see that "a full cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties" was actually taking place in Syria.
Russia, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, was not completely satisfied with the draft resolution, leaving open the possibility that it would not be adopted following Saturday's scheduled vote.
"We need to cut off all the things which are not really necessary for this particular purpose," said Russia's UN ambassador," Vitaly Churkin.
Russia, along with China, has previously vetoed two Secuirty Council resolutions on Syria, but both countries are on board international envoy Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan for Syria. The cease-fire, which was implemented Thursday, is part of the plan.
UN diplomats indicated that Russia's vote could go either way.
"It would be wise not to make predictions," said US ambassador Susan Rice. "We have been to this movie so many times."
Russia also put up a draft resolution that is similar to the US version, but eliminates the demand for "unimpeded" access for international observers and does not include language condemning human rights abuses in Syria or threats of further steps by the Security Council. The US version of the draft contains these clauses and is the only version currently scheduled for a vote.
Meanwhile, 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 were reported to have been out in force, at times using gunfire to block major protests from taking place, but refrained from wide-scale shelling or other actions that would violate the truce. Activists said they killed five protesters.
Opposition members estimated that tens of thousands took part in the nationwide protests.
mz/mr (AFP, AP, Reuters)