Syrian forces hit rebels

2012-04-05 08:50

Damascus - Syrian forces pressed a crackdown on rebel bastions on Wednesday despite a truce pledge, with the United States voicing doubts that President Bashar al-Assad will comply with a peace plan deadline.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops stormed and shelled several towns or villages, with 52 people killed around the country, including 28 civilians, with most of the casualties in the city and province of Homs.

While the US State Department criticised the "intensification" of violence against opponents of the regime, Russia said the opposition would never defeat Assad's army even if "armed to the teeth."

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory, told AFP that "from the Turkish border in the northeast to Daraa in the south, military operations are ongoing."

"Tanks are still shelling or storming towns and villages before going back to their bases," he added. "That does not mean they are withdrawing."


The assaults were taking place despite Assad's pledge to implement by April 10 a six-point peace plan brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Former UN chief Annan said Monday that Assad had agreed to start "immediately" pulling out troops under a six-point peace plan.

However US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters in Washington Wednesday that "we've yet to be convinced that they have any intention of complying with the April 10 deadline".

The Observatory has charged that the army was torching and looting rebel houses across the country in a campaign that could amount to crimes against humanity.

The Syrian National Council, the main opposition bloc, accused the regime of carrying out "a policy of genocide against the Syrian people" and called for immediate pressure from the international community for a pullback of tanks.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, meanwhile, predicted that under-equipped rebel forces would never be able to defeat Syria's powerful military.

Armed to the teeth

"It is clear as day that even if the Syrian opposition is armed to the teeth, it will not be able to defeat the government's army," the Interfax news agency quoted Lavrov as saying while on a visit to the ex-Soviet nation of Azerbaijan.

"Instead, there will be carnage that lasts many, many years - mutual destruction."

Lavrov said two groups of Syrian opposition representatives would visit Moscow in the coming days and that Russia would try to convince them that it wanted to help resolve the year-long crisis.

With international concern growing, a draft UN Security Council statement was drawn up asking Syria to respect the April 10 deadline, according to a copy seen by AFP.

The draft also urges the Syrian opposition to cease hostilities within 48 hours after Assad's regime makes good on its pledges.

Video conference

It calls on all parties to respect a two-hour daily humanitarian pause, as called for in Annan's plan.

Negotiations on the text - distributed by Britain, France and the United States - began on Tuesday. France's UN envoy Gerard Araud said he hoped it would be adopted late on Wednesday or on Thursday.

Russia, Assad's veto-wielding ally in the council, has rejected the idea of a deadline, with Lavrov saying "ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters."

Annan is to address the UN General Assembly on Thursday about the crackdown.

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser convened an informal meeting for 10:00 for Annan to provide via video conference an update on the situation and the "progress of his mission."

Read more on:    syria  |  syria conflict

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