By Oliver Holmes
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Opposition activists said at least six people were killed in Syria on Saturday as the U.N. Security Council tentatively was scheduled to vote to authorize an advance team to monitor a fragile, three-day-old ceasefire.
Activists also reported the first shelling, in the city of Homs, by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, since the U.N.-Arab League-brokered ceasefire took effect.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed during a funeral march in Aleppo, one by shelling in Homs and a sixth succumbed to wounds inflicted by torture in the central town of Rastan, straddling the Damascus-Aleppo road.
A video, shot in a destroyed part of what the cameraman says is the Homs neighborhood of al-Qarabis, showed two tanks rushing through the streets to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions.
"Look with your own eyes. Look, world. Watch what they are doing," the man making the video screams as a tank raises its turret.
The Syrian state news agency SANA said "armed terrorists" killed five people in ambushes around the country on Saturday, and kidnapped a parliamentary candidate from the north.
An army colonel also was kidnapped in the central city of Hama. "Colonel Mohammed Awad's car was intercepted by a terrorist group and he was kidnapped at gunpoint," SANA said.
The Syrian government repeatedly has denied access to journalists, making it impossible to verify the reports independently.
The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to vote on a Western-Arab draft resolution authorizing an advance U.N. team to monitor the ceasefire which aims to end 13 months of bloodshed during the uprising against Assad.
It is still unclear if Russia, one of Assad's allies, can be persuaded to support the draft, which calls on Syria to allow access for a team of up to 30 unarmed military observers and threatens to consider "further steps" if Damascus does not comply.
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said it was "regrettable" that the U.N. secretariat had not yet reached agreement with the Syrian government on the parameters for the mission, adding that "negotiations with Syria were stopped by members of the U.N. (secretariat) at the very moment when they were making progress".
It said negotiations "should be immediately resumed between the U.N. and Syrian authorities and a technical group should be sent to Syria for the completion of this process".
The Russian statement appeared to suggest that the Syrian government has not yet agreed to the mission and that the United Nations might be partly to blame for that.
VIOLENCE IN ALEPPO, HOMS
State news agency SANA and opposition groups traded blame on Saturday for gunfire in Syria's second city of Aleppo that activists said killed four and wounded three.
In a video, reportedly filmed in the Hay al-Etha neighborhood, the sound of gunfire and an explosion can be heard as men holding the Syrian revolutionary flag and children scatter from what appears to be a demonstration.
SANA said: "Armed terrorist groups spread in Hay al-Etha, opened fire randomly and attacked public and private property."
In another video, dozens of people, some with medical masks wrapped around their faces, run amid the sound gunshots and two men drag an injured man along the street.
"We are in a state of war," the camera-bearer screams before running over to film a young man whose head is dripping with blood.
SANA said its own television building in the same neighborhood was attacked by armed groups, but could not confirm casualties.
"Terrorist groups on Saturday opened fire randomly in al-Etha, attacked public and private properties and beleaguered the TV and Radio headquarters in the city," it said.
Hopes that the truce would put an end to the bullets that have frightened off peaceful protesters for months were quashed when forces loyal to Assad shot dead five protesters after Friday prayers, activists reported.
They said that security forces came out in strength in many cities to prevent protesters from mounting major rallies against Assad.
The United Nations estimates that Assad's forces have killed more than 9,000 people since the uprising began. Authorities blame the violence on foreign-backed militants who they say have killed more than 2,500 soldiers and police.
International pressure has grown for Syria to fulfill all its commitments to peace envoy Kofi Annan by withdrawing troops and heavy weapons, permitting humanitarian and media access, releasing prisoners and discussing a political transition.
The latest Western-Arab draft resolution aimed at authorizing deployment of an initial batch of observers that was circulated to the 15-nation Security Council on Friday evening says the council intends to set up a full-scale ceasefire monitoring mission "after consultations between the Secretary-General and the Syrian government".
This highlights a dilemma for the world body's leadership.
Consent of Damascus is required to deploy a mission to Syria. But U.N. diplomats say it is becoming increasingly awkward for top U.N. officials to engage with a Syrian government that has repeatedly failed to keep promises to halt the violence and which the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said may be guilty of grave human rights violations and war crimes.
The council resumes discussions on Syria at 11 am EDT (1500 GMT).
U.S. and European U.N. delegations had to revise the draft resolution late on Friday after Russia's U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters it needed cutting out of "all the things which are not really necessary for this particular purpose".
In the revised draft, wording has been changed and weakened slightly, in some cases from "demands" to "calls upon" or "requests".
Russia and China have vetoed two resolutions condemning Assad's assault on anti-government protesters.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Oliver Holmes; Editing by Michael Roddy)