BEIRUT — Syrian artillery hit parts of Homs city and at least 10 people were killed in clashes around the country on Friday, opposition activists said, as peace envoy Kofi Annan told President Bashar Al-Assad his forces must be first to cease fire and withdraw.
“The deadline is now,” Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said in Geneva. “We expect him to implement this plan immediately.”
An army pullback to bases would permit a safe return to mass, peaceful protest, said anti-government activists. But there was no sign of any risk-free demonstrations on Friday.
Five people were killed as rebels battled the army after troops broke up a protest in Deir Al-Zor near the border with Iraq, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported, and protests drew gunfire in several neighborhoods of Damascus.
“Clashes erupted between armed defector groups and the regime forces in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus after security forces tried to break up a protest,” the Observatory said.
It also reported government snipers killing two people in the cities of Idlib and Homs. Two were shot dead in southern Deraa, where rebels attacking a checkpoint killed a soldier.
In Homs, Syria’s third city, residents said shells and mortar rounds exploded as troops raided anti-Assad areas. Farther north, many were wounded in fighting in Idlib province.
Assad has said he will spare no effort to implement Annan’s peace proposals, but warned they would not work unless there is an end to foreign funding and arming of rebel groups.
The United Nations says Assad’s forces have killed at least 9,000 people in the year-long uprising. The government says around 3,000 soldiers and police have been killed.
Removing any ambiguity about the ceasefire terms of the peace plan Assad has said he accepts, Annan’s spokesman said it was up to the Syrian military to move first and show good faith by withdrawing tanks, big guns and troops from cities.
The Annan plan “specifically asks the government to withdraw its troops, to cease using heavy weapons in populated centers”, Fawzi said. “The very clear implication here is that the government must stop first and then discuss a cessation of hostilities with the other side and with the mediator.”
The plan requires the lightly-armed rebels to stop shooting. But the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has not said whether it accepts Annan’s proposals and political opposition groups have not explicitly endorsed his call for a dialogue with Assad.
Annan is acting on behalf of the United Nations and Arab League. Diplomats say he may ask for a UN monitoring mission to oversee implementation of the peace plan. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First we want to see that the bloodbath ends,” said an activist calling himself Abu Mohammed. — Reuters