News

    Syrian Cease-Fire Holds Despite Scattered Violence

    Syrians chanting slogans during a demonstration in Idlib, Syria, April 12, 2012. (AP cannot independently verify the content, date, location or authenticity of this material.)
    Syrians chanting slogans during a demonstration in Idlib, Syria, April 12, 2012. (AP cannot independently verify the content, date, location or authenticity of this material.)
    Margaret Besheer

    U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan says he is "encouraged" by reports that a shaky cease-fire between government troops and rebels in Syria seems to be holding, despite scattered violence.

    In a briefing on Syria to the U.N. Security Council Thursday, Annan urged the Syrian government to take further steps by removing troops and heavy weapons from major population centers.

    Kofi Annan's Six-Point Peace Plan

    • A Syrian-led political process to address the aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people.
    • A U.N. supervised end to armed violence by all parties in Syria.
    • Timely humanitarian assistance in all areas affected by fighting.
    • Increasing the pace and scale of release of arbitrarily detained people.
    • Ensuring freedom of movement for journalists.
    • Respecting freedom of association and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

    The cease-fire is being watched closely by skeptical Western envoys and Syrian opposition groups who are weighing President Bashar al-Assad's good faith in observing the peace plan brokered by Annan.

    U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the international community must be united if it is going to keep Syria from descending into "chaos."  At a news conference in Geneva, he said he hopes to send observers to the country soon.

    "This cease-fire process is very fragile," said Ban. "It may be broken at any time if and when there is another gunshot, even a small gunshot may give both sides some protection to engage in another fighting. This is very worrisome. Therefore it is important for all the friends of all the players of the international community to influence them, to advise them sincerely to keep their promises."

    Ban said the onus is on the Syrian government for the cease-fire to hold but he also urged the opposition to “sustain the cessation of violence in all its forms.”

    Scattered violence reported

    Activists reported a few deaths Thursday and dozens of arrests, but the nascent truce appeared to largely be holding.

    Syrian state media say "armed terrorists" bombed a military bus in the city of Aleppo, killing one soldier and wounding 24 officers and cadets.

    Rights activists said Syrian forces killed at least three civilians. They say the violence took place in areas including the protest hubs of Homs and Hama.

    Opposition groups also said Syrian troops remain deployed in flashpoint cities and are on high alert.

    Opposition leaders called for demonstrations to test the resolve of the government to abide by the cease-fire.

    Syrian opposition activists say while they support his efforts, they do not believe the plan will ultimately succeed.  

    “We wanted to give them a little time despite the fact that so many people are dying on the ground and in the streets that it is necessary to give the international community some time to find out if diplomacy is not going to work,” said activist Ammar Abdulhamid in Washington.

    Ban said the U.N. is working to send a small monitoring mission from its peacekeeping department to Syria. He said it could deploy quickly once it is approved by the Security Council.

    Russian role

    Security Council member Russia, which has blocked some previous action on Syria in the past months, looked ready to approve an observer force.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a Group of 8 meeting in Washington on Wednesday that it is “vitally important” the observers are present in Syria. He said he would ask the secretary-general to speed up his decision on the format and size of the force so the Security Council could approve its mandate.

    Timor Goksel, a former spokesman for U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon, said Russia is pushing the Syrian government to halt attacks on the opposition.

    "I'm optimistic because clearly Syria is under pressure from Russia," he said. "No doubt about it. How far, of course I don't know, but they're under pressure and they're responding to it by agreeing to the cease-fire and everything else.”

    Syria's interior ministry urged refugees and those who were displaced during months of fighting to return, claiming it would help pay for damage to their homes. The ministry also urged citizens to lay down their arms, promising an amnesty to all “except those with blood on their hands.”

    VOA's Pamela Dockins and Jeff Swicord along with wire services contributed to this report.

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
    Middle East Voices
    . Follow our Middle East reports on
    Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Willi Cap
    April 13, 2012 1:35 PM
    This shows Assad had control all the time

    by: isaismaila
    April 13, 2012 5:30 AM
    I want some one to reply me this questions. 1.When protestors are armed attacking security operators,what do you call them? 2.Do you ask the constituted authority to surrender to terrrorists that are killing people at will in the name of protesting.Stop propaganda that Asaad is killing civilians.

    by: Naser Abdulsamad
    April 12, 2012 11:24 AM
    My GAd Save and Protect Syria and the syrian people

    by: Starlight
    April 12, 2012 10:03 AM
    Why did Mr Annan did not introduce this unique plan at the onset of the violence, instead of waiting for the countless number of lives to be lost and refugees forced to flee. Something is not right here with this.

    by: Hassan
    April 12, 2012 8:46 AM
    The world should remember how the tragedy of Syria started. Syrians began to protest in the streets against the Assad dictatorship. The Assad dictatorship responded to the protests by murdering innocent Syrians in the streets and later in their homes. Now the shooting has stopped the protests like those in Tunisia and Egypt will begin again in Syria on Friday. Expect Assad’s forces to start murdering Syrians again and blame the killing on outside forces. Assad’s dictatorship needs to end in 2012

    by: Max Dee
    April 12, 2012 4:01 AM
    I have never heard the West ask the LOUD MINORITY opposition in Syria to spot their violence and disturbing the peace of Syrians. How strange!

    by: Gregory Carlin
    April 12, 2012 2:54 AM
    At this point, the opposition is I suppose expected to publicly fall out with each other with the resident opposition ( non-violent) being viewed as less than the real deal by the pro-Qatar factions. It is also the time to ask the Free Syrian Army the name of the hotel where they are keeping the hundreds of MIA soldiers and police officers. At that point one side will be morally as much the same as the other.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.