As a ceasefire between Syrian government troops and rebel forces comes into effect, there are reports from both sides of continuing violence, and tanks remain stationed in cities across the country.
Syria accused “terrorists” of planting a roadside bomb that blew up in Aleppo, killing one officer and wounding at least 24 cadets and officers in an attempt to sabotage the ceasefire, state media said today.
Meanwhle, a spokeswomen for the opposition Syrian National Council said three people had been killed in the towns of Idlib and Hama since the truce deadline expired at six o’clock on Thursday morning.
Any lull in the violence will receive only a cautious welcome after Syria’s defence ministry yesterday said that it would halt operations, but reserved the right to confront “any assault” by armed groups.
The ministry also declined to say whether a military presence stationed across cities would begin to withdraw, as required under the ceasefire.
Residents in Homs, Hama and Idlib, which have been flashpoints of violence in the year-long uprising to oust President Bashar al-Assad, said the situation remained calm this morning, while activists in Damascus also said the capital was quiet.
“It was a bloody night – there was heavy shelling on the city of Homs, but now it is calm and there is no shooting,” one activist said from Homs.
But he added: “There are no signs of a pull back – the tanks, snipers and armed forces are still visible across the city.”
Reports by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that explosions were heard in Zabadani, a town near the border with Lebanon, were denied by residents contacted by Reuters.
Today’s ceasefire follows a day of intense diplomatic activity yesterday, in which the UN’s international envoy, Kofi Annan, received a letter from the Syrian foreign ministry saying the government had agreed “to cease all military fighting throughout Syrian terroritory as of 6am tomorrow, Thursday 12 April 2012, while reserving the right to respond proportionately to any attacks carried out by armed terrorist groups against civilians, government forces or public and private property.”
Mr Annan is due to brief the UN Security Council on developments in Syria this afternoon.
Amid fears that President al-Assad’s regime will attempt to continue its onslaught against the opposition, plans to return to the UN Security Council and persuade Russia to back action remain on the table.
Previous attempts at UN Security Council draft resolutions have been vetoed by Russia and China over fears of a military intervention as with Libya.
“We will have another go at trying to persuade the Russians that the situation is deteriorating and the likelihood of regional conflict and civil war is increasing,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
China has now expressed “deep worries” about the violence in Syria and called for all sides to respect a ceasefire. In Indonesia, where he has gone for a south east Asian trade mission, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron also voiced a message that the bloodshed must come to an end.