At least 13 killed Saturday in violence across Syria
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) – Fresh violence in Syria left at least 13 people dead, opposition activists said Saturday, further crumbling a shaky cease-fire meant to end 13 months of unrest.
At least 10 military defectors died during clashes in a village in the Damascus countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Three civilian fatalities were reported in various cities, including Homs, where a man died after a gang supporting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime attacked him with knives, according to the London-based Syrian Network for Human Rights.
Defectors also clashed with forces in the coastal city of Latakia, where a presidential palace is located, according to the observatory.
As the clashes raged, Lebanese state media said authorities intercepted a ship in the Mediterranean and found weapons aboard after inspecting it Saturday.
The ship carried three containers with heavy and light weapons, the National News Agency reported. It said 10 crew members and the vessel’s agent were arrested after the inspection in Salaata port, north of Beirut.
It was unclear where the ship originated from, but Syrian state-run media said it came from Libya, and the weapons were intended to be delivered to the opposition fighters.
Reports of weapons and the new attack represented yet another blow to a peace plan that has been undermined by both sides of the conflict.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the six-point peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan has failed.
“Well, obviously, we can all see that it is the Assad regime that is failing to meet its obligations under the six-point plan,” Nuland said. “And as a result, the plan as a whole is failing thus far.”
The international community said Syria has not withdrawn its troops and heavy weapons from population centers, as the government agreed to do as part of the peace plan.
The plan includes calls for President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition to end the bloodshed, allow humanitarian groups access to the population, release detainees and start a political dialogue.
As the peace plan unravels, the United Nations is working to get more monitors into the nation.
As of Friday, 13 were in the country of 22 million people. An additional 15 are scheduled to arrive this weekend, and a total of 300 are slated to arrive in the coming month. The United States is not providing monitors, but is helping with funding and logistics.
Syrian activists have accused the United Nations of failing to move quickly to get its peace monitors into the country, but Nuland said preparations take time.
“You can’t just take Joe Schmo off the street,” she said. “You have to take somebody who has experience and training in monitoring, understands U.N. standards, understands their obligations in terms of human rights.”
The United Nations has to negotiate and sign contracts with governments sending personnel, which in some cases require parliamentary approval, Nuland said. Then there’s the physical transport of the personnel.
While there have been ample volunteers for the monitoring mission, Nuland said, the Syrian government is trying to choose among certain nationalities.
Syria has been engulfed in violence since March 2011, when the government started started cracking down on demonstrators who were peacefully protesting al-Assad’s regime. The president’s family has ruled Syria for 42 years.
Some opposition members have since taken up arms against the regime forces.
The United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people have died in the conflict, while opposition activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.
CNN cannot independently verify reports of violence and deaths within Syria, as the government has restricted access by most of the international media.
Meanwhile, in northern Lebanon, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Friday it started distributing supplies to the thousands of Syrian refugees there.
Refugees get food and other items from the United Nations and the Lebanese community.
CNN’s Saad Abedine and Jill Dougherty contributed to this report.