With one day left until the United Nations' special envoy Kofi Annan's cease-fire plan comes into effect, Syrian security forces are waging an unyielding campaign of violence against rebel forces across the country. Last week, Annan announced that Assad had agreed to a 6-point peace plan stipulating the withdrawal of government forces from population centers by tomorrow. The rebels warned the agreement was a ploy for Assad to buy time and kill as many rebels as possible. It's becoming difficult to see the U.N. peace deal in any other light. Is this what the beginnings of a cease-fire looks like?
On Sunday, Syrian soliders killed 87 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, half of them in a raid on the central village of al-Latamneh. Today, security forces killed 50 people, according to Al Arabiya. “Mortar rounds are falling like rain,” activist Tarek Badrakhan told the Associated Press. In a description of an assault on the central city of Homs, he told the news agency the regime was exploiting the peace deal to “to kill and commit massacres.” The fighting has even spread beyond Syria's borders. Today, Turkey is protesting cross-border shootings targeted at refugees housed in Turkey who were attacked by security forces, reports the BBC. Additionally, a Lebanese cameraman was shot killed on the Syria-Lebanon border. At the same time, the AFP news agency has uncovered a video of Syrian troops allegedly torturing an anti-government rebel in the capital, Damascus. The video (Warning: graphic content) shows a man lying on his stomach getting beaten and kicked, with a man in fatigues pressing his boot to his neck:
Unfortunately, the surge in violence isn't the the only sign the peace deal is in tatters. Even though last week Annan said Syria agreed to the peace deal, yesterday, Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi added a new condition to the deal that required rebels to give a written guarantee "to halt violence with all its forms and their readiness to lay down weapons." The commander of of the opposition Free Syrian Army Riad al-Assad rejected the new demand, saying Assad should call back forces to bases and takeaway street-side checkpoints.
It appears that some foreign observers are starting to point out the U.N.'s weakness in the face of Assad's refusal to backdown. “What we’re looking at is a long Arab winter of discontent with the UN as a powerless bystander,” Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, tells Bloomberg.“There is no diplomatic Plan B and Assad knows it.” Aram Nerguizian at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says Assad has no reason to stop. "Syria’s 46-year-old ruler has everything to gain and nothing to lose by continued repression, buying time when he can and capitalizing on the reluctance by Western powers to step in militarily," he said.
At this point, barring some sort of miracle, it looks increasingly unlikely that the U.N. plan as it's proposed—meaning a withdrawal of troops from urban areas followed by a full cease-fire at 6 a.m. Thursday, is going to happen.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.