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More Violence, As U.N. Mission Races Toward Damascus

The peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan and backed the United Nations has yet to curb the violence in Syria.

Reuters reports that even though a U.N. team of peacekeepers is scheduled to arrive in Damascus, today or tomorrow, opposition activists said government forces continued their attack. They said about 80 people have been killed since Tuesday.

Reuters adds:

"Russia, an ally of Assad, said Syrian forces had begun withdrawing from cities and towns in accordance with the peace plan of international mediator Kofi Annan. However, Syrian activists said troops and police loyal to Assad had pressed on with their campaign of raids and arrests in rebel areas, accompanied by bombardments, gun battles and sniper attacks.

"'Since this morning they have been shelling Khalidiya neighbourhood, that is in its 17th day,' said activist Hadi Abdullah by telephone from Homs, the city of one million which has suffered most in the uprising. 'Whatever it is that hits the area leaves a horrible sulphur smell, like rotten eggs.'"

The Guardian reportedthat the Syrian government estimated that 6,144 people have been killed, while the opposition claims 12,379 people have been killed. The U.N. estimates more than 9,000 have been killed since the uprising began more than a year ago.

As we've said before whether the peace plan leads to a ceasefire is very much up in the air. Syria agreed to a similar plan in November of last year, but that did not go anywhere.

Yesterday, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the U.N. Security Council was indirectly supporting the oppression of the Syrian people.

"In not taking a decision, the U.N. Security Council has indirectly supported the oppression. To stand by with your hands and arms tied while the Syrian people are dying every day is to support the oppression," Erdogan said, according to Reuters.

The Guardian adds that the peacekeeping team is headed by veteran Norweigian peacekeeper Maj. Gen. Robert Mood.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.