Tens of thousands protested across Syria on Friday, the second day of a ceasefire. Government forces increased their presence in public squares and at the entrances of mosques and fired into the air. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least one protester had been killed as a demonstration in Hama tried to reach the city center and that two people were shot at an army checkpoint. Two were also shot dead after Friday prayers in the town of Nawa in the southern province of Deraa and another person died in the northwestern province of Idlib, all centers of protest during the uprising that began in March of 2011.
Men march in Rastan after Friday prayers in this video clip:
Tanks and armored vehicles were still stationed in cities and civilian areas in violation of joint United Nation-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace proposal, which called for troops and heavy weapons to be withdrawn.
Nonetheless, Ahmed Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan, told Al Jazeera that “scattered reports of violence in Syria did not mean the ceasefire was failing” and that, while the presence of tanks and troops was “extremely” concerning, “more important was a halt to the killing.” Fawzi also said that the government and the armed opposition had “relatively respected” the ceasefire and that he was “aware that we don’t have a perfect situation.”
The peace proposal also calls for the release of detainees, the delivery of humanitarian aid and allowing reporters free movement in Syria.
Fawsi also said that a team of 10 to 12 UN observers is “standing by” to board planes and enter Syria. A larger team of about 250 monitors will follow if the UN Security Council approves their presence. While all of the 15 member nations of the Security Council including China and Russia have approved Annan’s plan, Russia — Syria’s defender throughout the uprising — is objecting to an “operative paragraph that would give the monitors a free hand in conducting their work, granting them abilities like unhindered access to any place in the country and the right to interview anyone without government interference,” says the New York Times.
On Friday, President Obama approved non-lethal aid — including communications equipment and medicines for the opposition — with plans to increase the aid over time.
Over 9,000 people have been killed in the Syrian uprising and thousands more wounded. According to the BBC, the Syrian government said in February that the death toll was “at 3,838 – 2,493 civilians and 1,345 security forces personnel.”
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