Activists: Shelling in central Syrian city kills 1

Associated Press
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This image made from amateur video and released by Douma Revolution in Syria Friday, April 13, 2012 purports to show a large anti-government demonstration in Douma, Syria. (AP Photo/Douma Revolotion in Syria via AP video) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CANNOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT, DATE, LOCATION OR AUTHENTICITY OF THIS MATERIAL. TV OUT

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops fired shells into rebel-held neighborhoods in the central city of Homs on Saturday killing at least one person, activists said. It was the first reported death from alleged government bombardment of a residential area since a cease-fire went into effect two days ago.

Syrian forces regularly shelled Homs and other cities before the internationally brokered truce and the resumption of such bombardments would be seen as a particularly egregious violation.

It came as the United Nations Security Council prepared to vote on a resolution authorizing the deployment of the first wave of U.N. military observers to monitor the cease-fire between government forces and rebels.

The death in Homs was reported by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activist Tarek Badrakhan, who is based in the rebel-held neighborhood of Khaldiyeh. Badrakhan said the body of the man remained in the street for several hours, with people unable to approach it due to the shelling and sniper fire.

The regime restricts access of foreign observers, including journalists, making it difficult to verify reports of violence independently.

Activists have reported a total of 13 people killed by regime forces since Thursday, while the government has reported three deaths in apparent rebel attacks. Those numbers are still much smaller than the norm before the truce.

In Homs, one of the cities hardest hit by the crackdown of the last 13 months, the sporadic shelling started Friday night and continued into Saturday morning, Badrakhan said. He and the Observatory said it targeted the neighborhoods of Jouret el-Shayah and Qarabees.

"I can see black smoke billowing from a building that was hit in Jouret el-Shayah," Badrakhan told The Associated Press via Skype.

A video posted online by an activist said to be taken in Homs showed shells landing in a heavily damaged street.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group said troops fired live bullets and tear gas at a funeral in the northern city of Aleppo, killing three people. The Observatory said three people were wounded in the shooting at the funeral.

Also, troops were conducting a wave of arrests in the Damascus suburb of Dumair when a car exploded killing one civilian and wounding two others, the Observatory said. It gave no further details.

The Syrian state media has for its part reported several apparent rebel attacks since the truce. State-run news agency SANA said gunmen on Saturday kidnapped army Col. Mohammed Eid in a suburb of the central city of Hama while on his way to work.

It also reported that gunmen stormed the house of local politician Mohammed Ismail al-Ahmad in the northern town of Tin and shot and wounded him, then took him to an unknown location, SANA said. The agency said Ahmad had been planning to run for parliament.

On Friday, Syrian forces have used live fire, tear gas and clubs to beat back tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets across the country in powerful and often jubilant displays of defiance.

But the reported death toll from the rallies — six people — was much less than the usual for a Friday, where demonstrators spill out onto the streets after midday prayers. The rallies meanwhile were described as some of the largest in months.

Other incidents after the cease-fire went into effect included 20 people wounded when security forces opened fire at protesters in the southern village of Jassim late Friday, activists said.

Gunmen shot dead Shiite Muslim cleric Sayyed Nasser al-Elwi in the Damascus suburb of Sayeda Zeinab late Friday, Syria-based activist Mohammed Suleiman Khalil said. The Observatory confirmed the killing. It was not clear why the cleric was killed but many in the opposition see members of the Shiite minority sect as supporters of President Bashar Assad's regime.

U.N. Security Council members met behind closed doors for several hours Friday to discuss rival drafts by the U.S. and its European allies and by Russia, Syria's most important council ally.

Both called for the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 unarmed military observers to initiate contacts with both sides and begin to report on implementation of "a full cessation of armed violence in all its forms by all parties."

The cease-fire, which formally took effect Thursday, is at the center of Annan's peace plan, which is aimed at ending more than a year of bloodshed that has killed over 9,000 people, according to the United Nations, and to launch inclusive Syrian-led talks on the country's political future.

In Germany, the Der Spiegel weekly said the German government said it was looking into a report that weapons bound for the Syrian regime were loaded onto a German-owned ship. Der Spiegel said the Atlantic Cruiser was halted in the Mediterranean after its owners were warned it was suspected to be carrying Iranian military equipment to Tartus, Syria.

Der Spiegel quoted shipping agent Torsten Lueddeke of Hamburg-based C.E.G. Bulk Chartering as saying: "We stopped the ship after we received information on the weapons cargo." He said the ship was chartered to Ukraine-based White Whale Shipping, and they said the ship was carrying pumps and similar equipment.

Neither C.E.G. nor the ship's owner were immediately reachable. The German Economy Ministry said it looks into all suspected embargo breaches but didn't yet have details of the case.


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