BEIRUT — A deadline for a U.N.-brokered cease-fire passed without reports of major violence at dawn Thursday, opposition activists said, just hours after Syria promised to observe a halt in fighting.
Under a peace plan by international envoy Kofi Annan, a truce was set for 6 a.m. Thursday, to be followed by negotiations between President Bashar Assad's regime and the Syrian opposition on a political transition.
But there were only dim hopes for an abrupt end to the bloodshed that has roiled Syria for 13 months and claimed more than 9,000 lives.
Syria has backtracked on previous peace plans, has characterized the uprising it's facing as a terrorist plot and has escalated shelling attacks on rebellious areas in recent weeks.
The regime also carved out an important truce condition when it announced Wednesday it would halt the fighting – saying it still has a right to defend itself against the terrorists that it says are behind the country's uprising.
Opposition activists said the Thursday morning deadline passed without reports of major violence.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, an activist group, said some shots were fired in the Damascus neighborhood of Qadam after midnight Wednesday and that an explosion went off in a car in a Damascus suburb, causing no injuries.
Fares Mohammed, an activist in the Damascus suburb of Zabadani, said an army tank at a checkpoint fired three shells at a nearby open area between 5:50 a.m and 6:10 am. Thursday.
The rebel Free Syrian Army, a fighting force determined to bring down Assad, has said it will abide by the cease-fire. But the opposition is not well organized, and there are growing fears of groups looking to exploit the chaos.
A cease-fire could pose a major risk for the Assad regime.
Many activists predict that huge numbers of protesters would flood the streets if Assad fully complies with the agreement and pulls his forces back to barracks. But Syria has ways to maintain authority even without the military, in the form of pro-regime gunmen called "shabiha" and the fiercely loyal and pervasive security apparatus.
Over the course of the uprising, the military crackdown succeeded in preventing protesters from recreating the fervor of Egypt's Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of people camped out in a powerful show of dissent that drove longtime leader Hosni Mubarak from power.
On Wednesday, the White House cautioned that the Assad regime has reneged on promises to stop the violence in the past.
"What is important to remember is that we judge the Assad's regime by its actions and not by their promises, because their promises have proven so frequently in the past to be empty," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters in Washington.
Annan is scheduled to brief the U.N. Security Council on Thursday by videoconference from Geneva.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:
|@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.|
Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.
Read more on Reuters.com.
The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.
How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.
Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say. Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.
Read the full report here.
This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)
According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."
Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.
Read more on Reuters.com.
Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.
|@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria|
|@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS|