Over 10,000 people have now been killed in the Syrian uprising, which began over a year ago in the southern city of Dera’a. According to the United Nations, the level of violence in Syria remains “unacceptable,” in the face of an April 12 call for a ceasefire. International pressure on Syria to end the violence has only grown as opposition strongholds such as Homs and Idlib have been besieged and bombarded.
Hundreds of UN monitors have been deployed in Syria to monitor the regime’s compliance with the peace plan with inconclusive results, in part because of the Syrian government’s restrictions on their travel. On Tuesday, May 15, six monitors were caught in an attack in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib after Syrian forces fired on a funeral procession. They were returned to their base in Hama the following day. Al Jazeera reports that a UN spokesperson describes three UN vehicles as being damaged by an “improvised explosive device.” A video shows the UN monitors leaving Khan Shiekhoun with the damaged vehicles being hauled away on trucks.
Parliamentary elections were held on May 7 with the ruing Ba’ath Party winning two-thirds of the seats in the 250-member parliament and the government’s election commission claiming that turnout was 51 percent. But amateur videos showed cities including Homs, Hama and Dera’a all but shut down to protest the elections.
In a rare television interview with Russiya 24, a Russian state TV station, President Bashar al-Assad reiterated many of the same positions about the protests and the opposition that he has been making during the past 15 months. Assad blamed foreign-backed terrorists for the violence and asserted that last week’s parliamentary elections had not been widely boycotted:
“We have an acute problem with terrorism. Terrorists don’t care about reform, they are not fighting for reform.”
Assad claimed that the majority of Syrians support the regime and that “foreign mercenaries” from other Arab countries are fighting for the opposition.
The protests in Syria began peacefully following the arrest of a group of teenagers for writing anti-regime graffiti in Dera’a. Activists, says the New York Times, contend that the opposition has only armed itself in the face of a continuous bloody crackdown by security forces and the Syrian army, under the orders of Assad’s government. In Damascus, a protest movement, “Stop the Killing,” has emerged, with the aim of restoring the protests to their original peaceful form; many of the nascent movement’s organizers have been arrested.
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