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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Violence Erodes Fragile Syrian Cease-Fire

April 20, 2012

VOA News

A cease-fire in Syria showed more signs of unraveling on Friday, as security forces fired shots at protesters and pounded opposition strongholds while the government blamed rebels for a deadly explosion.

Activists say protesters calling for President Bashar al-Assad's departure demonstrated across Syria under a heavy security force presence in some areas. The Associated Press says government forces fired shots and used tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Damascus.

Rights groups and activists report intense shelling in the flashpoint Homs region. Hivin Kako, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says that government forces are targeting civilian areas.

"There has been mortar used since the early hours of the morning - this is regarding what is happening in Homs in different area[s]," said Kako. "There has been bombardment by the Syrian regular forces."

Kako says security forces shot and killed a civilian in Hama and in Aleppo on Friday.

State-run media reports say an explosion killed 10 security force members in the southern Daraa region on Friday. The government blamed "armed terrorists" for the attack.

Diplomacy

As the violence unfolded, diplomatic attempts continued aimed at enforcing provisions in a peace agreement brokered last week by international envoy Kofi Annan.

The U.N. Security Council is considering a plan that would increase the number of international monitors in Syria from about 30 to 300.

A spokesman for Kofi Annan described the cease-fire as "very fragile" on Friday. He expressed hope that additional monitors would be in place in Syria very soon.

Kako said the Annan peace plan is Syria's last hope.

"This is the last chance to save the country and to move forward towards democracy and a transitional period in a peaceful way," said Kako. "Otherwise, the country will be dragged into a war."

Sanctions

European diplomats said Friday that a fresh round of EU sanctions against Damascus could be adopted as early as Monday.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Friday the world cannot afford to wait much longer for the cease-fire and peace plan that Annan put forward to take hold, warning Syria is on the verge of descending into civil war.

China, which has blocked stronger U.N. action against the Syrian regime, said it was ready to do more to help uphold the truce - saying it is willing to contribute observers to the U.N. mission.

The United Nations estimates that Syria's crackdown on the revolt has killed more than 9,000 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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