Activist groups said at least five people were killed when Syrian troops opened fire on demonstrators and on civilians returning to their homes, and President Bashar al-Assad's government accused “terrorists” of carrying out two bombings and an assassination in which at least two people died.
It was clear, however, that Syria was quieter than it has been for months, leading to cautious hope that the six-point peace plan proposed by the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan may help end the bloodshed and usher in a negotiated settlement to the country’s 13-month-old uprising.
“Syria is apparently experiencing a rare moment of calm on the ground,” Annan said in a statement from Geneva. “This must now be sustained.”
In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cautioned that the cease-fire could be considered only “a fragile first step.”
“Sporadic fighting continues in parts of Syria,” she told reporters at a Group of Eight meeting. Assad's forces “have not pulled back, and he has not taken any action on any of the other points.”
The United States is now pushing for a speedy resolution at the United Nations that would oblige Assad to comply with all the requirements of the six-point plan, including the withdrawal of troops from cities, access for humanitarian aid and journalists, and permitting peaceful protests, she said.
“The Annan plan is not a menu of options,” Clinton said. “They cannot pick and choose.”
The United States circulated a draft resolution at the United Nations that would establish an advance team of up to 30 U.N. monitors to observe the cease-fire. The council is expected to follow up in the coming weeks with a second resolution that would establish a full-fledged monitoring mission with as many as 250 monitors, most of them recruited from other U.N. missions in the region.
There was broad consensus in the 15-nation Security Council about the need to support Annan’s request for U.N. monitors, and Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said it was possible the council could approve the mission by Friday.
Whether the lull in violence signaled any more than a pause was in question. The sustained shelling of residential areas loyal to the opposition that had killed hundreds of people in recent weeks came to a halt, but there was no indication that the government had pulled its forces out of the cities.
Such a move could trigger a revival of the mass demonstrations that shook the country in the early months of the uprising, and the government appeared intent on preventing the opposition from taking advantage of the cease-fire to call people onto the streets.