The Arab League has called on the United Nations to act to protect civilians in Syria as the violence continues. Western states are threatening to up the ante against Damascus if the cease-fire does not hold.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday declared Damascus "in contravention" of the internationally brokered peace plan to end the violence there, while the Arab League urged the Security Council to take immediate action to protect civilians.
The secretary general said he was "gravely alarmed" at continuing reports of violence in Syria despite the cease-fire agreement. He said that a small advance team of UN observers have reported that heavy weapons remain stationed in population centers, "in contravention of the Syrian government's commitments"
At least 16 people were killed in a blast in Hama on Wednesday, according to the UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Syrian state news agency SANA said the blast was triggered by a "terrorist" bomb-maker.
The Syrian National Council, an opposition umbrella organization, claimed that more than 100 people had been killed in Hama in recent days due to heavy shelling.
UN Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi called for a contingent of 300 UN observers to be deployed more rapidly. There are currently 11 observers on the ground with another 100 expected to arrive within the next month.
"The entire world is waiting for a truce and the observers to be deployed, but unfortunately the fighting has not stopped and every day new victims die," al-Arabi told a league ministerial meeting in Cairo on Thursday.
"The important thing now is the ceasefire, and this will only happen if a sufficient number of observers is deployed," he said.
Cycle of escalation
On Wednesday, France had raised the prospect of invoking Chapter 7 of the UN charter if Damascus does not live up to its commitments under the cease-fire. Chapter 7 allows the use of military force if sanctioned by the 15-member UN Security Council.
US Ambassador the UN, Susan Rice, said on Thursday that Washington was considering further actions in light of cease-fire violations.
"We have talked about the importance of this council being prepared to consider sanctions in the event that the Assad regime continues to violate every commitment it makes," Rice said.
Russian and China, however, would likely veto any UN resolution imposing tougher action against Damascus. The two countries have twice vetoed resolutions on Syria in the past.
"We call upon the Syrian side to carry out in full its obligations," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told a weekly briefing.
"Nonetheless…there is another side in Syria, opposition groups, which have in essence shifted to tactics of terror on a regional scale."
slk/av (AFP, Reuters, dpa)