Syrian government forces continued to conduct military operations across large swathes of the country Friday, less than a week before a U.N.-backed cease-fire is to take effect. Anti-government opposition groups. meanwhile, held protests in more than a dozen towns and cities after Friday prayers.
Opposition videos showed hundreds of protesters demonstrating in Syria's northern commercial capital of Aleppo Friday despite the presence of government security forces.
Videos also showed large protests in several flashpoint regions and the capital, Damascus.
Amateur Video of Syrian violence obtained by APTN
Witnesses reported heavy government shelling in the Deir Balbah district of the beleaguered city of Homs Friday. Parts of Homs have come under government shelling for weeks and activists say there is no sign government troops are preparing to withdraw from populated centers by April 10, in accordance with a U.N. peace plan.
An opposition video also showed rebel soldiers firing automatic rifles in Homs, in the direction of government troops. VOA cannot independently verify the authenticity of the video, but if true, it could indicate that rebels may have received fresh supplies of ammunition.
Opposition activist Adeel Youssef said that government troops are continuing shelling in many villages. He said,"Syrian troops are indiscriminately bombing before they try to storm a town or village."
He added that the attacks are causing an "exodus of frightened people."
Al Arabiya television reported that government troops stormed the Damascus suburb of Douma overnight, making dozens of arrests. Government forces have temporarily retaken parts of Douma on several previous occasions, only to lose control later.
The Syrian government has agreed to U.N.-backed peace plan but international peace envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that there has been little progress on ending the year-long crackdown on dissent.
Both Russia and China, allies of the Syrian government, have increased pressure on Damascus to comply with the plan.
Syria blames much of the violence on "terrorists" supported by "Arab and Western countries." The state-run SANA news agency said Friday that terrorist acts increased after Damascus reached an agreement on Annan's peace plan.
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut said it is not likely that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will comply with the peace plan, because that would give the opposition new momentum.
"[Accepting the plan] means that Syrians will feel free to demonstrate against the regime with impunity," Khashan said. "This is unthinkable. Assad will never allow such developments to occur. Therefore, he will find reasons to defeat the mission of Kofi Annan."
Khashan said Annan's diplomatic efforts are the ?last chance? that Assad will receive from the international community.
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