Fighting between Syrian regime forces and armed rebels killed four people early yesterday, as a tenuous UN-backed ceasefire entered its second month, monitors and activists said.
The fresh bloodshed and clashes came as the UN mission in Syria has said it now has 176 military observers on the ground, more than half its planned strength of 300.
The observers are tasked with shoring up a ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to take effect on April 12, but which has been broken daily.
Yesterday, a civilian was shot dead by regime forces at a checkpoint in Dmeir, just outside Damascus, while another was killed by a sniper in the capital’s northern suburb of Douma, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A rebel commander, Abu Adi, was killed in overnight clashes with regime forces in Douma, while an officer who deserted the army died in a dawn ambush in Deir Ezzor Province, the Britain-based watchdog said.
The Local Coordination Committee (LCC), a coalition of opposition activists on the ground, said the Syrian army shelled Douma early yesterday and that heavy gunfire was also heard in the suburb.
Clashes also broke out in other parts of the Damascus Province, the Observatory reported.
On Saturday, 22 people were killed, including 11 civilians, two deserters and nine regime troops, of which seven were killed during fighting in northwest Idlib Province.
Violence continues to rock Syria, where the UN says the 176 military observers are backed by 56 civilian staff to monitor the ceasefire.
In Idlib Province, a stronghold near the Turkish border of rebels fighting Syrian President Bahar al-Assad’s regime, security force gunfire killed a man and a woman during a series of raids, the Observatory said.
Another civilian and a child were killed in pre-dawn shelling in central Hama Province, the watchdog said, while a fifth was killed by sniper fire in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor.
Meanwhile, nine soldiers and an army deserter were killed in clashes between rebel groups and regime forces in Idlib Province, according to the Observatory.
For its part, state news agency SANA said authorities thwarted an infiltration attempt by an “armed terrorist group” from Turkey and entered the Idlib city of Jisr al-Shughur.
Syrian forces killed and wounded a number of the “terrorists,” as the rest fled back into Turkey, SANA added, saying the groups’ weapons had been seized and RPG launchers and machine guns.
Elsewhere, troops also clashed with rebel fighters in the flashpoint central province of Homs, in southern Daraa Province and in several areas of Damascus Province.
Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported two Turkish journalists who were held in Syria for two months before being freed thanks to Iranian mediation arrived in Tehran on Saturday.
Reporter Adem Ozkose and cameraman Hamit Coskun were flown to Tehran from Damascus, and the two men told Anatolia they were in good health.
A military court, meanwhile, has released eight activists, -including blogger Razan Ghazzawi, until their May 29 trial on charges of “possession of banned publications,” human rights lawyer Anwar Bunni said on Saturday.
On Thursday, twin suicide bombings in the capital killed at least 55 people and wounded 372 — the deadliest attacks since the uprising against al-Assad’s regime erupted in March last year.