SYRIA. At least seven people were killed in fighting throughout Syria as the U.S. said the United Nations-backed peace plan for the country was failing.
The casualties today included one soldier who defected from government forces and a child, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees.
More than 500 people have been killed since the April 12 start of the cease-fire brokered by UN special envoy Kofi Annan, according to the website of the Local Coordination Committees.
If violence continues, the U.S. and its allies anticipate putting further pressure on the regime by seeking a travel ban, additional financial sanctions and an arms embargo at the UN Security Council, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week in Washington.
Nuland blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the plan’s lack of success, citing attacks by government forces on civilians and the military’s failure to withdraw heavy weapons from population centers. She also said it is essential to deploy as many as 300 unarmed UN cease-fire observers in the effort to limit the violence.
Pentagon officials are drawing up plans in the event that President Barack Obama decides to pursue military options in Syria, Kathleen Hicks, an administration nominee to the Defense Department’s policy staff, told the Senate Committee on Armed Services April 26.
“We are doing a significant amount of planning for a wide range of scenarios, including our ability to assist allies and partners along the borders,” said Hicks, the nominee to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.
The U.S., Turkey and other allies have discussed creating a civilian aid corridor along the Turkish border with Syria as one option if the fighting continues.
The head of the UN monitoring force arrived in Damascus today, Al Arabiya reported without saying how it got the information. An advance team of 15 UN observers has reported heavy weapons in populated areas in violation of the UN agreement, Ban said.
Nuland estimated that it may take another three to four weeks to deploy the first 100 of the anticipated 300 monitors.
The head of the Arab League, Nabil el-Arabi, said Arab foreign ministers have asked him to convene a meeting of all the Syrian opposition factions on May 16, according to the Al Jazeera television channel.