A UN-backed ceasefire to end 13 months of bloodshed in Syria appeared to be holding a few hours after coming into force at 6am (local time) Thursday, despite doubts about the regime’s compliance with the peace plan. However, there were still no signs of a withdrawal by Syrian regime forces, monitors said. The Syrian regime broke a commitment to pull back forces from population centres by Tuesday, under an agreement brokered by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Hours before the deadline for the ceasefire, government attacks continued in some opposition strongholds, with Syrian troops reportedly shelling the central city of Homs and the Damascus suburb of Zabadani. Activists in Hama, in the north of Syria, said at least 20 tanks had been newly deployed in the centre of the city, in violation of a clause in the ceasefire plan that calls for the withdrawal of tanks and troops from residential areas. According to opposition sources quoted in Western media, dozens of people were killed during fighting on Wednesday.
Syria has come under intense international pressure to comply with Annan’s peace plan, not only from Western powers such as the United States, but also from its allies, including Russia, China and Iran. On Wednesday, Annan met with Iranian leaders in Tehran to urge them to put pressure on Damascus. Iran is considered the most important ally of the Assad regime and has supplied weapons, advice and finance to the Assad regime over the past year.