Syrian opposition leaders called for massive peaceful demonstrations around the country on Friday, just one day after the deadline of a joint Arab League-United Nations ceasefire expired.
Some see the protests as a test of President Bashar al-Assad's sincerity. Assad's crackdown against protests last March were the spark that started Syria's year of conflagration and Friday's rallies will certainly push the terms of the truce.
As of 3:30 p.m. in Syria, there were no signs of shelling, sniping or troop movement. However, police and security forces did use tear gas and live fire to break up protests in cities across the country, according to the Associated Press, while activists said the government was blocking streets to frighten off peaceful protesters.
At least three people were reportedly killed during the protests, including one who was shot after leaving Friday prayers to join a protest in Deraa province and another in Hama's central square, according to Reuters.
While the peace plan's author, Kofi Annan, said his cease-fire has been relatively respected, scattered clashes between rebels and government forces were reported near the Turkish border.
The foreign-backed armed terrorist groups in Syria have been escalating their attacks, arsons and assassinations especially following the Syrian Army decision to halt its badly needed operations against the terrorists, according to the official SANA news agency.
Syria's interior ministry proposed a deal to rebels on Thursday, saying that any opposition fighters whose hands weren’t tainted by the blood of the Syrians who handed over their weapons to the police would be spared prosecution, SANA reported.
The United Nations estimates 9,000 people have died during the 13 months of violence in Syria, but activists put the number above 10,000.
As part of his six-point plan, Annan has asked the Security Council to quickly authorize the deployment of 30 unarmed U.N. observers to Syria. The Security Council is expect to vote to send an advance team of 10 to 12 observers by Friday afternoon and a mission of 250 observers could be sent later.
At the moment we have the advance team standing by to board planes and to get there, to get themselves on the ground as soon as possible, Annan's spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, stated.
“Spreading observers is an issue agreed on by the Syrian government and the U.N., and we are considering the final points in some technical sides concerning the spreading of those forces,” Syria’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., Bashar al-Jaafari, said on Thursday.