- NEW: Death toll in Syria rises to at least 20 on Saturday, an opposition group says
- NEW: Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin calls it an “extremely critical juncture” for Syria
- U.N Security Council members approve a resolution to allow observers into Syria
- In the flashpoint city of Homs, the forces shell neighborhoods at dawn
(CNN) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to approve a resolution to allow international observers into Syria to monitor a shaky cease-fire, as reports of clashes continue to emerge from across the country.
The resolution calls on the Middle Eastern nation to allow the deployment of an advance team of up to 30 international observers and give them unimpeded freedom of movement. It remains unclear, however, if the deployment will help stem the violence that continues despite an official cessation of hostilities days earlier.
The U.N. resolution, the first on Syria since violence gripped the country more than a year ago, also calls on all parties to end armed violence.
Russia’s ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow, which has previously blocked the council’s resolutions, was satisfied the text now required all sides to stop fighting.
“There have been too many casualties, too much suffering to befall the Syrian people,” said Churkin.
He warned that the unrest could affect regional peace and stability, describing it as an “extremely critical juncture.”
Russia and China have so far blocked Security Council attempts to pass resolutions condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The two countries said they want the violence to stop but argued that previous resolutions were not evenhanded.
Security Council President Mark Lyall Grant, of the United Kingdom, said a narrow window exists to improve conditions on the ground.
The U.K., he said, welcomes Saturday’s decision, but regrets “that it comes only after the Syrian people have for over one year suffered unimaginable brutality at the hands of a regime that has prioritized its own survival over the needs, rights and aspirations of the people it should serve and protect.”
Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution comes “deplorably late, but hopefully not too late.”
“We must remain vigilant,” he said. “Too many commitments made by Damascus in the past have not been kept. We must not tolerate further brinkmanship.”
Meanwhile, activists in Syria reported that government forces targeted opposition neighborhoods Saturday, just days into a fragile cease-fire aimed at ending the bloody crackdown against anti-government protesters.
In escalating attacks, at least 20 people were killed by security forces across the country, said the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria, a network of opposition activists. Syrian state media reported clashes between security forces and “armed terrorists.”
Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the government would have to approve a deployment of international observers.
The cease-fire, which is part of the peace plan, went into effect at dawn Thursday.
Other demands of the Annan plan include the release of detainees, allowing access for humanitarian aid and international media, and the withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from residential areas.
However, Syria is not in full compliance with the peace plan, and troops and heavy weapons remain in population centers despite an agreement to withdraw, said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
At least 11 people were killed in the flashpoint city of Homs, where the Syrian army resumed mortar shelling in several neighborhoods, the LCC said.
Abu Abdel Rahman, a spokesman for Sham News Network, said a cameraman on his way to film the shelling was among those killed in Homs.
Five more people were killed in the city of Aleppo, three of them as regime forces opened fire on mourners at a funeral, the LCC said.
Syrian state TV reported that security forces had clashed with armed terrorist groups in Aleppo who were firing at civilians. State-run news agency SANA said two law enforcement officers were killed and an army colonel kidnapped in separate attacks by armed terrorists.
The Syrian government has consistently blamed “armed terrorists” for the violence.
In Daraa, government troops opened fire on protesters, injuring at least 20, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Regime forces also arrested five people after raids on homes, the opposition group said.
The attacks come a day after protesters poured onto the streets, seemingly testing whether President Bashar al-Assad would stick to a provision in a six-point peace plan implemented by international special envoy Kofi Annan that allows peaceful demonstrations.
Annan’s spokesman, Ahmad Fawzi, said Friday there was a long way still to go.
“We are worried about the operational deployment of heavy armor in population centers,” he said. “They do not belong there. And we are working with the government and with the opposition for a full cessation of violence in all its forms.”
More violence is likely, Fawzi said. “We are under no illusion that we have come to the end of this conflict,” he said. “This is only the beginning of a long road towards reconciling and towards building the future that Syrians aspire to.”
Syria’s anti-government protests erupted in March 2011, followed by a bloody government crackdown. The United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people have died in Syria since the protests began. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria puts the death toll at more than 11,000.
CNN’s Richard Roth, Salma Abdelaziz, Amir Ahmed, Elise Labbott, Arkady Irshenko and Moni Basu contributed to this report.
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