- Bashar al-Assad - Kofi Annan - Popular revolt - Syria - unrest
Syria rebels give ceasefire ultimatum
Following last week's massacre of more than 100 people in Houla, the rebel Free Syrian Army said Thursday the Syrian regime had until noon on Friday to honour an internationally-brokered peace plan, or else it would drop its end of the bargain.
AFP - Armed rebels have given the Damascus regime until noon (0900 GMT) Friday to stick to Kofi Annan's peace plan to end violence in Syria, warning they themselves will quit the truce unless the ultimatum is met.
"If the Syrian regime does not meet the deadline by Friday midday, the command of the Free Syrian Army announces that it will no longer be tied by any commitment to the Annan plan ... and our duty will be ... to defend civilians," a FSA statement said.
The ultimatum comes as the death toll from assaults by President Bashar al-Assad's forces on protest hubs spirals and after the UN reported two massacres of civilians in the past week, leaving an April 12 truce negotiated by UN-Arab League peace envoy Annan in tatters.
The FSA singled out in particular a May 25-26 massacre near the central town of Houla in which more than 100 people died, including 49 children and 34 women.
Some were blown to bits by artillery and tank fire but most were summarily executed, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"After the barbarous massacre of women and children at Houla ... we announce that there is no more justification for us to unilaterally respect the truce because Assad has buried Annan's plan," the FSA statement added.
The rebels demanded that the regime adhere to all six points of the Annan plan: an immediate ceasefire; an end to all forms of violence; tanks and armoured vehicles out of civilian areas; humanitarian access to all regions; the freeing of political prisoners and protesters; and access by the media to all parts of the country.
The FSA also demanded a commitment by Assad's regime not to attack the UN observer mission overseeing the truce, "and the opening of serious negotiations through the United Nations to deliver power to the people."
More than 13,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians, since an uprising erupted against Assad's regime in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.