Skip to main content

A tenuous truce holds, but Syria lacking full compliance with peace plan

By the CNN Wire Staff
April 13, 2012 -- Updated 0154 GMT (0954 HKT)
  • At least 37 people are killed in sporadic violence, activists say
  • Security Council may demand Syria allow observers
  • Kofi Annan says Syria has not fully complied with the peace plan
  • In Homs, a resident hears the sound of birds, not guns

Are you there? Send us your images or video. Also, read this report in Arabic.

(CNN) -- The world turned a skeptical eye toward Syria on Thursday after a truce cast relative calm over restive cities and towns previously pounded by government forces.

"Syria is apparently experiencing a rare moment of calm on the ground," said Kofi Annan, the special envoy who brokered Syria's peace plan.

"This is bringing much-needed relief and hope to the Syrian people who have suffered so much for so long in this brutal conflict. This must now be sustained."

However, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Annan told U.N. Security Council members that Syria lacks full compliance with the peace plan and that troops and heavy weapons remain in population centers despite an agreement to withdraw.

As talk of the need for international observers increased, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not have the luxury to pick and choose what to implement in the peace plan.

"The Annan plan is not a menu of options," she said. "It is a set of obligations."

White House press secretary Jay Carney called the truce tentative.

"We cannot call what's happening on the ground a full cease-fire," he told reporters. "A tentative cease-fire, a less-than-full cease-fire, is not equal to a full implementation of the regime's obligations under the Annan plan."

The six-point Annan plan calls for the release of detainees, allowing access into the country for humanitarian aid and international media, and respecting the rights of peaceful demonstrators.

The Security Council on Friday may vote on a draft resolution that demands Syria to allow the deployment of up to 30 international observers and allow them unimpeded freedom of movement.

The draft also calls on all parties to cease armed violence.

Government guns fell mostly silent Thursday, but Syrian opposition groups still reported sporadic violence, and Thursday was not a day entirely free of bloodshed. At least 37 people were killed, said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC), a network of activists across Syria. Twenty-five of those deaths occurred in Homs, the group said.

The LCC reported the presence of government forces in one Damascus suburb and gunfire in two others. It reported mortar shelling in Madeeq Citadel in Homs.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said an explosive device killed an officer and wounded 24 other people. It also said an "armed terrorist group" killed a Daraa citizen out buying bread.

Amid the tenuous truce, opposition groups called for peaceful demonstrations, seemingly testing whether the government would stick to its word.

"Today marks a critical moment in our six-point plan for ending the violence in Syria," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "At this moment, the situation looks calmer."

Ban said he was working with the U.N. Security Council to send in observers as promptly as possible.

"The onus is on the government of Syria to prove that their words will be matched by their deeds this time," Ban said at a news conference in Geneva. "The world is watching, however, with skeptical eyes since many promises previously made by the government of Syria have not been kept."

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said an observer mission would "check whether the commitments made by the parties -- essentially the regime, because it is primarily responsible for the crackdown -- are actually being honored."

Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin said it was crucial for monitors to be on the ground.

Anti-regime protesters, meanwhile, came out onto the streets in several cities including Idlib, Homs, Deir Ezzor, Raqqa, Aleppo and Damascus, according to the LCC. It said troops opened fire at a checkpoint in Hama to prevent people from protesting.

Tanks were still roaming the streets, and snipers remained perched on rooftops in some cities, according to activists.

CNN is unable to independently verify reports of violence and deaths as the government has severely restricted access by international media.

The continued troop presence meant that al-Assad's guns could be pointed back at people within a moment's notice, and fears rose that large protests could spark violence.

Many Syrians and international observers questioned whether al-Assad would adhere to the cease-fire, especially after the government made it clear that it reserved the right to fire back on aggressors.

The regime has reneged on previous promises to stop violence, and al-Assad has described anti-government rebels as armed terror groups spreading mayhem in the country.

"Armed terrorist groups escalate their criminal operations in an attempt to damage Syria's stability and Annan's plan," said a headline on Syrian state-run television.

Bashar Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters Thursday that armed groups had eight violations of the cease-fire that resulted in several deaths Thursday.

Jaafari reiterated "again and again and again" his government's commitment to a peace plan and said Syrian troops had withdrawn from cities and towns.

"The credibility of the Syrian government has been confirmed," he said, rebutting Annan's statement that Syrian troops had not withdrawn.

"He didn't say that," Jaafari told reporters.

Rice, however, told reporters she couldn't imagine how the Syrian ambassador, who wasn't in the room when Annan was speaking, could characterize accurately what the former U.N. secretary-general said.

Jaafari also said the government is expecting armed opposition groups to end violence.

UK Foreign Minister William Hague said Thursday's lessening of violence "is a first fragile step toward peace that needs to be strengthened and sustained."

For the most part, after months of slaughter, residents of hotspots throughout the beleaguered nation woke up to the quietest day in months.

"Interestingly, we have been only hearing the sounds of birds," said Abu Salah, a Homs resident. "However, we have seen the security forces on alert."

Annan's plan, which appeared to falter in the days ahead of its Thursday deadline, is widely seen as the last chance for a diplomatic solution to the yearlong crisis in Syria.

Opposition fighters stayed in some cities to ward off attacks by government forces, activists said.

"The Free Syrian Army members remain in Homs, but there have been no clashes," activist Saif al-Arab said in reference to the army of military defectors. "They perceive their role as only to defend civilians in the face of any raids."

Just before the deadline, a tank fired mortar rounds into a residential area in Zabadani, 20 miles outside of Damascus, activists said.

"It was as if Assad's forces wanted to send a last message of warning," said Rania, a local activist who did not want to use a full name for safety reasons.

Opposition groups say deaths have occurred daily at the hands of al-Assad's forces. The day before the deadline, government forces attacked several cities, killing at least 98 people, the LCC reported.

Syria's anti-government protests erupted in March 2011, followed by a bloody government crackdown.

The United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people have died in Syria since the protests began. The LCC puts the death toll at more than 11,000.

Adib al Shishakly, a member of the Syrian National Council, an umbrella group of exiles, said Damascus needs to abide by all six points of Annan's peace plan.

"They diluted the whole initiative into one thing: into the cease-fire only," al Shishakly said. "What happened to the other five?"

CNN's Amir Ahmed, Joe Vaccarello, Ivan Watson, Hamdi Alkhshali and Moni Basu contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.