Syria’s anti-regime revolt entered its 15th month yesterday amid relentless violence that has killed more than 12,000 people and growing despair by Arab countries that a UN-backed peace plan will succeed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another nine people were killed yesterday in violence across the country, including four in the coastal city of Banias and a child in Damascus Governorate.
The bloodshed comes despite a truce brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan as part of a plan aimed at ending violence that has swept Syria since March last year, when the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began.
The UN has accused both sides to the conflict of violating the ceasefire and warned that the country was edging closer to full-blown civil war.
The Syrian government maintains that foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups” are behind the unrest aiming to undermine the regime and scuttle attempts at political reform.
Officials yesterday said slightly more than half of eligible voters had taken part in legislative elections held earlier this month, but boycotted by the opposition and described as “ludicrous” by Washington.
Khalaf al-Azzawi, head of the commission, said turnout stood at 51.26 percent for the vote on Monday last week, which he described as “transparent and democratic.”
The elections marked the first “multiparty” vote in five decades and came following the adoption in February of a new constitution. Nine parties were created and seven had candidates vying for a parliamentary seat.
In other developments, al-Nusra Front to Protect the Levant, an Islamist group unheard of before the Syria revolt, denied in a statement that it had claimed responsibility for bombings in Damascus last week that killed 55 people.
“Many news agencies, news Web sites and satellite channels ... have attributed” the Damascus bombings on Thursday targeting the security services “to al-Nusra Front, based on a video posted on YouTube,” the statement dated Sunday said.
“But we say, this video as well as the statement appearing in it are fabricated and ... full of errors,” the group said in the statement published on jihadist forums.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister warned on Monday that confidence in Annan’s peace mission was fading fast because of the bloodshed.
“Confidence in the efforts of the international envoy is falling rapidly because fighting and bloodshed continue,” Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal told reporters after Riyadh hosted a summit of Arab leaders of the Persian Gulf.
Part of Annan’s six-point plan includes the deployment in flashpoint areas of about 300 UN military observers. By Sunday, 189 observers were on the ground, the UN mission in Syria said.
Though the number of casualties has decreased since the deployment of the observers, the violence has not stopped.
The Britain-based Observatory gave an updated toll of 37 people killed in unrest, which swept parts of Syria on Monday, including 23 soldiers killed by rebels at Rastan, a city in restive Homs Governorate in central Syria.
According to the Observatory, more than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died since the uprising began on March 15 last year, including more than 900 killed since the April 12 truce.
Unrest spilled over into Lebanon on the weekend, where political parties are divided, with one side backing the Syrian opposition and the other al-Assad’s regime.