DAMASCUS, (AFP) — Syria’s anti-regime revolt entered its 15th month on Tuesday amid relentless violence that has killed more than 12,000 people and growing fears by Arab countries that a UN-backed peace plan will fail.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said another 12 people were killed Tuesday in violence across the country, including four in the coastal city of Banias, a child in Damascus province and five people in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
The bloodshed comes despite a truce brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan as part of a six-point plan aimed at ending violence that has swept Syria since March 2011, when the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began.
The United Nations has accused both sides to the conflict of violating the ceasefire and warned that the country was edging closer to full-blown civil war.
The Syrian government maintains that foreign-backed “armed terrorist groups” are behind the unrest aiming to undermine the regime and scuttle attempts at political reform.
Officials on Tuesday said slightly more than half of eligible voters had taken part in legislative elections held earlier this month but boycotted by the opposition and described as “ludicrous” by Washington.
Khalaf al-Azzawi, head of the electoral commission, said turnout stood at 51.26 percent for the May 7 vote which he described as “transparent and democratic.”
The elections marked the first “multi-party” vote in five decades and followed the adoption in February of a new constitution. Nine parties were created, and seven had candidates vying for a parliamentary seat.
In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister warned Monday that confidence in Annan’s peace mission was fading fast because of the bloodshed.
“Confidence in the efforts of the international envoy is falling rapidly because fighting and bloodshed continue,” Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters after Riyadh hosted a summit of Arab leaders of the Gulf.
Part of Annan’s six-point plan includes the deployment in flashpoint areas of around 300 UN military observers. By Sunday, 189 observers were on the ground, the UN mission in Syria said.
Although the number of casualties has decreased since the deployment of the observers, the violence has not stopped.
According to the Britain-based Observatory, more than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died since the uprising began on March 15 last year, including more than 900 killed since the April 12 truce.
A source in the Syrian National Council, Syria’s main exiled opposition umbrella group, said meanwhile that Burhan Ghalioun was elected as the coalition’s chief in a vote held in Rome on Tuesday.
Ghalioun garnered 21 votes in the leadership battle while another opposition figure, Georges Sabra, won 11 of the 40 votes cast by members of the general secretariat, the source said.
Ghalioun has led the coalition since it was founded in October 2011 by the consensus of its members, rather than through election.
Unrest spilled over into neighbouring Lebanon at the weekend, where political parties are divided, with one side backing the Syrian opposition and the other Assad’s regime.
Nine people were killed in the mainly Sunni Muslim northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli after sectarian clashes erupted on Saturday between residents of rival neighbourhoods.
Calm was restored by early Tuesday after the army deployed and gunmen withdrew from the majority Sunni Muslim district of Bab el-Tebbaneh, and Jabal Mohsen, where the majority of residents are from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam and loyal to Assad’s regime.