Last updated: 19 April, 2012

Syria troops kill civilian a week into ceasefire

At least four people were killed in violence across Syria on Thursday even as authorities in Damascus penned an agreement aimed at putting a stop to 13 months of bloodshed, a monitoring group said.

One civilian was killed during an assault by government forces in the northeastern oil city of Deir Ezzor and three others died from gunfire in the town of Yabrud, north of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The casualties brought to 124 the number of civilians who have died since a UN-brokered ceasefire went into effect in Syria a week ago on April 12, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based watchdog.

Three civilians were also wounded on Thursday in the assault on Deir Ezzor where fighting was raging between government troop and rebel fighters, the group said.

It also reported clashes in Daraa, south of Damascus, cradle of the 13-month uprising against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and shelling in the flashpoint central province of Homs.

The small advance team of UN observers in Syria visited Daraa province on Thursday and met with local residents, according to amateur videos posted online.

Gunfire erupted after their visit, the Observatory said.

One video showed a UN vehicle surrounded by a mob in the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh and chanting “freedom, freedom, down with the regime.”

Another video showed the head of the team, Colonel Ahmed Himmiche of Morocco, entering a house where a crowd awaited him.

One man tells the colonel how he was shot and wounded while driving with his brother who was killed.

A woman recounted how her two sons, both farmers, were detained by government forces three months ago with their whereabouts still unknown.

Himmiche asked the crowd whether schools and hospital were open in the region. Residents responded that schools were open but that no one dared seek treatment at a local government-run hospital for fear of staff “finishing them off”.

The latest violence came as authorities in Damascus signed a preliminary accord outlining a protocol for a UN mission to monitor the fragile week-old ceasefire.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad signed the deal with a member of a UN advance team, the foreign ministry said.

Although the number of casualties has fallen since the truce went into effect, the violence has continued unabated despite assurances by Syrian authorities they would respect the ceasefire.

Violence on Wednesday killed 30 people, 22 of them civilians, the Observatory said.

In a report to be discussed by the Security Council later Thursday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he wanted 300 unarmed observers sent on a three-month mission to Syria, adding it was “critical” that Assad’s regime adhere to the peace plan.

Ban’s report, obtained by AFP, said that even though Syrian troops have not been withdrawn from cities and violence has escalated since the ceasefire, “an opportunity for progress may now exist, on which we need to build.”