36 Civilians, 13 Troops Dead as Syria Protesters Take to Streetsإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Syrian activists protested against President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, saying the embattled leader will be defeated, as at least 36 civilians and 13 pro-regime security personnel were killed in fresh violence.
The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 36 civilians across the country, including three children and two women.
Twelve people were killed in Homs, nine in Idlib, three in the Damascus neighborhoods of Daff al-Shouk, al-Tadamon and al-Midan, four in Aleppo, two in the Damascus suburb of Douma, one in Deir Ezzor and one in Daraa, the LCC said.
Meanwhile, state television said a powerful blast killed 10 security force personnel in the southern region of Quneitra, blaming the explosion on "terrorists."
The latest violence, which left three security forces dead elsewhere, came as international envoy Kofi Annan's spokesman acknowledged the situation was "not good" and as rights monitors reported an opposition activist killed and intense shelling of protest centers.
"It's a very fragile ceasefire," Ahmad Fawzi told reporters of the tenuous truce which has seen more than 120 civilians killed since it went into effect on April 12.
The deadly blast took place in Quneitra, near the border with Israel in the occupied Golan Heights, state television reported.
"An armed terrorist group exploded a 100-kilogram (220-pound) bomb in Sahm al-Jolan in the region of Quneitra, killing 10 members of the security forces," the television said.
Meanwhile, an advance team of U.N. military observers resumed work bolstered by the signing on Thursday of a protocol governing their mission to monitor a six-point plan brokered by Annan.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon urged the Security Council to take "early action" to bolster the mission, while acknowledging that boosting its numbers to 300 was "not a decision without risk."
Opposition activists had called for a show of defiance against Assad's regime for the main weekly protests on the Muslim day of prayer and rest.
"We will win and Assad will be defeated," was the slogan on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook Page, which has been a major engine of the 13-month uprising that monitors say has left more than 11,000 people dead.
Videos posted online showed thousands of demonstrators joining a huge rally in the city of Hassaka in the mainly Kurdish northeast.
Others showed demonstrations in the southern province of Daraa, cradle of the uprising, as well as in the Damascus suburbs.
Across the country, activists reported a massive security force presence, particularly outside mosques, the traditional starting point for marches and protests.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the U.N. observer mission needed to be able to guarantee Syrians the freedom to protest.
"We need observers on the ground, but properly equipped observers with helicopters that can ensure the right to protest. It's extremely important. The day this freedom is guaranteed, the regime will fall," he said.
But the head of the small observer advance team, Morocco's Colonel Ahmed Himmiche, said it would not be attending demonstrations on Friday for fear that "our presence is used for an escalation."
"Today, we have other tasks. We are going to meet civilians and representatives of organizations," Himmiche told Agence France Presse as his team prepared to leave their Damascus hotel.
The U.N. chief said there was "deeply troubling evidence" that the government was pursuing its deadly crackdown despite agreeing to halt violence.
"The past few days, in particular, have brought reports of renewed and escalating violence, including the shelling of civilian areas, grave abuses by government forces and attacks by armed groups," Ban said.
The protocol signed with Damascus on Thursday will pave the way for the U.N. observers to fan out across the country.
The advance party has visited the Daraa region but has not so far been able to visit Homs, where rebel neighborhoods have come under repeated deadly bombardment, Ban said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the rebel Khaldiyeh district of Homs -- Syria's third-largest city -- was under heavy bombardment for another day.
"A shell is falling every five minutes on the neighborhood," it said.
Footage posted on the Internet showed what activists said were plumes of smoke rising over Khaldiyeh.
Homs activist Seif al-Arab charged that government forces were "intensifying their operations in a bid to take control of the whole city before the observers enter."
Some 30 percent of Homs remains outside security force control despite a month-long assault on the city's Baba Amr district that saw hundreds killed, including Western journalists, before it was overrun on March 1.
Activists in the town of Qusayr, further north, also reported heavy bombardment. "Mortar and rocket fire did not stop all night and is continuing today," said Hadi Abdullah.
"The regime wants to empty Qusayr of its residents and destroy it as it did with Baba Amr, because it's the only way it can assert its control," he charged.
Damascus ally Moscow insisted Friday that the Syrian ceasefire was generally holding despite violations and should be viewed as an achievement that was saving the country from a broader civil war.
"Despite the existing violations and provocations, the ceasefire is holding overall. This is a great achievement whose loss could lead to a dangerous retreat to a new wave of violence," the foreign ministry said.