I. Background to the crisis in Syria
Protests asking for the release of political prisoners began mid-March 2011 and were immediately met by Syrian security forces who at first detained and attacked protestors with batons, and later opened gunfire, and deployed tanks and naval ships against civilians. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to halt the violence and implement meaningful reforms demanded by protestors such as the lifting of emergency law, broader political representation and a freer media. Assad continued to deny responsibility for the attacks on protestors, placing the blame for the violence on armed groups and foreign conspirators instead. On 16 February President Assad called for a referendum to be held on 26 February that would end single party rule in Syria; however governments, such as the United States, analysts, and members of the opposition expressed reluctance that the promise of political reform would be upheld, and noted that conducting a referendum during such a crisis was not a necessary course of action to end the violence. As the conflict wore on, demands grew more splintered and protestors began to organize. One of the main opposition groups, the Syrian National Council (SNC), is an umbrella organization that was formed by activists in Istanbul on 24 August. The SNC has received economic support from Turkey, who hosts an SNC office. The organization also met with the United Kingdom and United States. The SNC called for the Syrian government to be overthrown by a united opposition, rejected dialogue with Assad, and, though officially against military intervention, requested international protection of the population. In contrast, another main group, the National Co-ordination Committee (NCC) advocated for dialogue with the government, believing that toppling the Assad regime would lead to further chaos. On 31 December, these two groups signed an agreement to unite against the government. Another group, the Free Syrian Army, comprised of an estimated 15,000 defected Syrian soldiers, executed retaliatory attacks against Syrian forces. UN High Commission for Human Rights Navi Pillay marked the death toll at more than 5,000 when she briefed the UN Security Council in early December. Between 26 December 2011, when independent monitors mandated by the Arab League arrived in Syria, and 10 January 2012, there were at least 400 deaths, according to UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynne Pascoe. Though the death toll continued to increase with the ongoing violence in the months following, the UN stopped releasing estimates in January 2012 given the growing difficulty to verify casualties. Humanitarian situation in Syria worsens amid continued violence
Clashes between government forces and the Syrian opposition continued into April 2012, despite efforts by the international community to end the violence. The appointment of Kofi Annan as UN-Arab League Joint Special Envoy to Syria led to a 16 March presentation to the Security Council of a six-point plan, which included a ceasefire deadline of 10 April, the end of government troop movements towards population centers, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and troop withdrawal. Contrary to skepticism from the international community - including France and the United States - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted Annan’s proposal for the ceasefire. The Security Council, after being briefed by Annan on 2 April, issued a presidential statement on 5 April in support of the plan and calling on the government to follow through on its pledge, and on all parties to cease armed violence. Additional demands made by the Syrian government on 8 April - including a written ceasefire agreement and observer mission deployment occurring simultaneously with the ceasefire – were refused by the Syrian opposition; the armed opposition group Free Syrian Army warned they would resume attacks if the government did not adhere to ceasefire deadlines....
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