Violence in Syria has been the prevalent theme throughout the Arab world since late 2011 and has continued to escalate to alarming terms through 2012. In the month of April alone, the death toll has risen to disturbing numbers and the country stands on the precipice of a civil war.
The fighting that started almost a year ago exists between the government led by President Bashar Assad and rebel forces opposed to his violent and oppressive regime. These rebel forces consist of political activists, grassroots organizers and armed militants. According to The New York Times, “The conflict is complicated by Syria’s ethnic divisions. The Assads (the president) and much of the nation’s elite, especially the military, belong to the Alawite sect, a minority in a mostly Sunni country. Alawites constitute about 12 percent of the 23 million Syrians. Sunni Muslims, the opposition’s backbone, make up about 75 percent of the population.”
Despite numerous calls for a cease-fire and an end to the fighting, the current situation of the nation still sees armed combat from both sides. In early April, President Assad signed an agreement to a six-point peace plan which outlined the strategy for implementing a cease-fire. Shortly after the plan went into effect, the violence was reported to have dropped significantly. In not pulling back the armed militants, the government sends a clear sign to the rebels that the government is not willing to withdraw completely, allowing them to continue their rebuttals.
Last Thursday, as reported in The Times, a large number of Syrian civilians died in a poor neighborhood of Hama after their houses crushed down on them. The opposition activists called it a massacre, saying intensive government shelling collapsed a row of cinder-block shanties, killing around 70 people.
The opposition continues to respond to these acts of violence as, on Monday, the rebels were reported to have fired antitank rockets at the office of the Central Bank in Damascus and detonated two bombs close to a military compound in the northern city of Idlib. More than 20 people were killed in these acts of violence.
With the threat of a full-scale civil war looming closer every day, the United Nations and the Arab League have teamed up to intervene with a solution to the tensions. Their consensus was to send an envoy of observers to Syria to observe the situation and see to it that the six-point peace plan was fully implemented.
According to The Press Association, “The joint UN-Arab League envoy said the speedy deployment of the 300-strong UN observer force authorized by the council on Saturday was ‘crucial’ to verify what was happening on the ground and potentially ‘change the political dynamics.’ The observer force would also provide the international community with ‘incontrovertible’ information to increase pressure for a ceasefire by the government and opposition.”