BEIRUT – Tens of thousands of re-energized opponents of the Syrian government gathered Friday for demonstrations on a second day marked by relatively low levels of violence, but the U.N. Security Council was unable to agree on a mission to monitor further implementation of a peace plan.
The protests that now habitually take place after Friday prayers were much anticipated this week, coming 36 hours after a cease-fire mandated in the plan put forward last month by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which also requires the government to allow peaceful demonstrations of dissent.
The plan has been endorsed by Syrian President Bashar Assad, his allies in Russia and China, and Western nations that have called for him to step down.
However, a heavy military presence Friday thwarted major protests in most cities, and eight civilians were killed across the country by security forces, according to a spokesman for the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights using the pseudonym Rami Abdulrahman.
The cease-fire was also marred by a skirmish in Idlib province near the Turkish border, although no casualties were reported there.
The plans requirements appeared to have been violated by armed members of the opposition as well as by security forces, with two soldiers reportedly killed in an attack near Hama.
According to Abdulrahman, however, the number of casualties remained significantly lower than last Friday, when dozens were killed, even with five times as many people demonstrating nationwide as there were last week. The information could not be verified, as the Syrian government restricts access to the country.
U.N. officials and Western diplomats had hoped that even a partial cease-fire would allow progress on the rest of Annans six-point proposal, which calls on the Assad government to allow humanitarian aid, foreign journalists and U.N. monitors to enter Syria.
But the U.N. Security Council failed to agree Friday on a resolution that would include sending an advance team of up to 30 unarmed military observers to the country, with plans to increase the number to 250 later. The debate stalled as Syrias ally Russia proposed less-stringent wording.