The death toll continues to rise in Syria, as Syrian authorities keep up military attacks in several cities and towns, despite having agreed to a ceasefire that supposedly began on April 12. The ceasefire, which did lower levels of violence in parts of Syria during the first three or four days, is part of a U.N.-backed plan to stop the 13-month assault by the Syrian regime against its people that by U.N. estimates has left over 9,000 Syrians dead.
State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner deplored the continuing assaults, which, he said on April 17th, include the city of Homs and the southern town of Busra al-Harir:
“This erosion of the cessation of violence that we had in place – and we called it fragile from the start – this erosion is unacceptable. We need to see the Assad regime live up to its pledge.”
The plan to stop the carnage in Syria, which began when Syrian authorities attacked peaceful anti-government demonstrators in March 2011, was developed by U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan. In addition to a cease-fire, the plan calls for Assad to remove military forces from Syrian towns and cities; allow peaceful demonstrations; release arbitrarily detained political prisoners; permit timely provision of humanitarian assistance; allow freedom of movement for journalists; and allow for an inclusive Syrian-led political dialogue.
In an effort to monitor the situation on the ground, the U.N. Security Council has authorized the deployment of unarmed military observers to Syria. A small advance team has arrived in the country.
Deputy Spokesperson Toner emphasized the burden is on Syrian authorities to live up to their commitments:
”They need to ... implement all the points of the Annan plan. To date they have not. They’ve barely fulfilled one. And we do need to let these monitors get on the ground, establish themselves and go out and actually report on what they see.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the coming days are critical to evaluating whether Kofi Annan plan’s will be implemented in Syria. “We’re hoping for the best,” said Secretary Clinton. “We want to see a peaceful period for the people of Syria, and we want to see a political process begin. But if violence is renewed, if the regime reverts to shelling its own people and causing a great deal of death and injury, then we’re going to have to get back to planning ... our next step.”