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U.N., Syria set rules for observers as violence continues [Video]

April 19, 2012 | 10:06 am

The United Nations tried to uphold its shaky attempt at peace in Syria on Thursday, hammering out rules on patrols by U.N. observers. Yet rebels and the regime of President Bashar Assad said violence had continued, casting doubt on the plan.

Syria and the U.N. struck a deal Thursday covering how observers would operate and the responsibilities of the Syrian government, but they shared scant details of the accord.

"An effective observer team on the ground is vital if the lives of ordinary Syrian families are to slowly return to normal," said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan. He added, "The hard part lies ahead: a truly Syrian-led and -owned political dialogue to address the legitimate concerns and aspirations of the Syrian people."

But even as the Assad regime agreed to guidelines and a small team of monitors toured Dara province, dissidents said government attacks had continued elsewhere.

"It's a ghost city here," said one activist in the Qusayr neighborhood of Homs, reached via Skype. Shelling, explosions and arrests had continued, he said, and the rebels were fighting back. "After the violation of the truce, the Free Syrian Army is answering back with the light weapons that they have."

In the video above, a large crowd chants "Freedom" and "Go, Assad, go" as U.N. observers arrive in the town of Herak on Thursday. The footage was uploaded to YouTube and spread by opposition activists. Dissidents claimed that two people were killed by gunfire in the town just after observers left.

Another opposition activist reached in Dael complained that the U.N. monitors were being too tightly controlled by the regime and weren't going to the worst-hit areas. The peace plan brokered by Annan is "an expression of a new opportunity for the regime to crush the revolution," he complained.

Syrian state media, meanwhile, said the rebels were carrying out kidnappings and assassinations in violation of the truce. Eight Syrian army and police officers were buried Thursday, victims of rebel attacks, the Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Here are four more glimpses of what is reported to be happening in Syria on Thursday, as seen through amateur video. The Times cannot confirm the exact events shown in the footage.

In this first video, U.N. observers in blue helmets are seen arriving in the town of Khirbet Ghazala, where they are met by opposition protesters shouting "Death over humiliation" and "God is Great":

The next video is said to show large plumes of black smoke rising from the Khalidiyeh area of Homs. Sounds of shelling can be heard in the background:

This footage purports to show continued shelling in the Qusayr neighborhood of Homs on Thursday. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, said two people were killed there by shelling:

Another video purports to show residents of the village of Alama eagerly gathering around U.N. observers. It's unclear what they're saying:


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-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles