More deaths in Syria despite pullback pledge

Syrian armed forces killed at least 31 people on Saturday, mostly civilians and all but four of them in an assault on the town of Latamna in central Hama province, a monitoring group said.

“Twenty-seven people were killed in the bombardment and shooting during an attempt by the military to storm the town of Latamna,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It said the deaths came after regular forces launched an overnight assault on the town and clashed with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Farther to the south at Qusayr in central Homs province, three other civilians including a woman and a child were killed, as was a defector from the police, the Britain-based Observatory said.

And in the north, “one officer and two security agents were killed early on Saturday at Hreitan” in Aleppo province, the site of fierce combat for the past several days, it said.

Dawn assault
The latest fighting comes despite strong condemnation by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who slammed the government of President Bashar al-Assad for stepping up attacks on protest cities despite agreeing on a truce.

At least 77 people were killed across Syria on Thursday and 35 on Friday, most of them civilians, according to Observatory figures.

The monitoring group said that in Aleppo province, deserters pressed a dawn assault on Ming air base, while others attacked the military intelligence headquarters at Halab al-Jadida St in Aleppo itself, the country’s second city.

At Hama in central Syria, the Observatory reported fighting in several districts of the city between regular troops and deserters, which was confirmed by an activist on the ground, Abu Ghazi al-Hamwi.

“Regular forces launched an assault early on Saturday on the Al-Qussur district, where they burned down the house of an activist,” he said.

Peace plan
Another activist, Mohammed al-Shami, said that in Damascus province the town of Irbin saw overnight fighting following protests in support of towns being attacked by the military.

The Local Coordination Committees group, which organises protests at a local level, put online on Saturday videos of tanks and armoured cars deploying in Douma, just 13km north of the capital.

Ban Ki-moon on Friday said attacks by government forces violated a UN Security Council demand for an end to hostilities, and urged Assad not to use an April 10 peace plan deadline as an “excuse” for more killing.

The Council passed one statement backing envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan and on Thursday agreed a second “presidential statement” formally endorsing the April 10 limit for Syrian troops and big guns to be pulled out of cities.

Under the statement, the Syrian opposition were to halt military operations no more than 48 hours later.

The United Nations says more than 9 000 people have been killed in the Assad regime’s crackdown on the year-old uprising. Activists say more than 10 000 people have died. — Sapa-AFP

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