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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Clashes, Protests Erupt as Syrian Cease-Fire Frays

VOA News April 13, 2012

Syrian security forces shot and killed at least three protesters on Friday and clashes erupted near the Turkish border, as a day-old ceasefire between the government and opposition showed signs of unraveling.

Mass opposition protests swelled in several flashpoint areas across Syria, and activists say government forces fired on demonstrators at several locations, including in the protest hub of Hama.

Activist groups and Turkish villagers said Syrian troops and rebel forces clashed near the Turkish border. Some of the fighting was reportedly heavy.

The unrest erupted a day after the Syrian government said it would abide a cease-fire brokered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan. The plan calls for the government to withdraw forces from urban areas and end its violent year-old crackdown on dissent.

It also calls for rebels to stop fighting.

The Syrian government said it would only respond to attacks launched by armed militants, but Hama opposition activist Samir al-Husain told VOA that Friday's shootings in the city were unprovoked.

"There wasn't shooting by the FSA, Free Syrian Army," said al-Husain. "There were only peaceful demonstrators coming out after Friday prayer like usual, like every Friday. Once they started chanting against the regime, there was shooting at them."

Possible Security Council Action

Diplomats said the U.N. Security Council was poised to vote as early as Friday on deploying an advance team of up to 30 observers to Syria.

Deaths across Syria, as tabulated by Syrian Shuhada.
Western nations have been pushing the Security Council to send two waves of observers to Syria to monitor and enforce the cease-fire. A draft resolution calls for Syria to give the observers full and unimpeded freedom of movement across the country.

It also demands Syria withdraw troops and heavy weapons from population centers.

Sipan Hasan with the Syrian Center for Democracy Support, a Netherlands-based group, said Friday's clashes are no accident on the part of the Syrian army.

"The Syrian regular army is attempting to finish this situation as soon as possible, and they are trying to finish those people," he said. "What we have heard is the Syrian army is moved to looking for those groups."

The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's unrest over the past year.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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