Conal Urquhart,

The UN security council has voted unanimously to send to 30 military observers to Syria to monitor the country's fragile ceasefire.

Russia and China joined the other 13 security council members and voted in favour of the draft resolution on Saturday. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, made it clear Moscow would only support limited action from the UN.

"Out of respect for the sovereignty of Syria we have cautioned against destructive attempts at external interference or imposing any kind of illusory fixes," he said.

Sources at the UN said that the observers were poised to leave for Syria in the next couple of days.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, welcomed the decision and called for rapid deployment of the observers.

"This mission is a vital step in supporting the fragile ceasefire in Syria. It is essential that it begins its work urgently and without impediment. I urge all parties to maintain the ceasefire to allow the monitoring mission to deploy and complete its task," he said in a statement.

Before the vote, both sides in the conflict reported deaths and injuries on the third day of the UN-brokered ceasefire.

Opposition activists said government forces shelled the city of Homs on Saturday, injuring a number of civilians, while the state news agency Sana reported that six members of the security forces and civilians had been killed by "terrorist groups".

Karm Abu Rabea, a resident of Homs, said that he heard eight shells fall on the city in one hour on Saturday. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other activists in Homs said shelling had wounded several people overnight.

The Local Coordination Committees activist group said there were 771 demonstrations throughout Syria on Friday, more than in previous weeks.

Activists said security forces had killed at least six people on Friday, a lower-than-usual toll. Activist video purported to show mortars and tank shells hitting parts of Homs, especially the Qarabis quarter, after Friday prayers.

The rallies stretched from the suburbs of Damascus to the central province of Hama, Idlib in the north and the southern province of Daraa, where the uprising began in March 2011.

The Observatory said on Saturday that troops were conducting arrests in the Damascus suburb of Dumair when a car exploded killing one civilian and wounding two others. It gave no further details.

Sana reported a series of incidents across Syria on Friday including shootings, bombings and border incursions. No reports from either side can be verified independently.

Meanwhile, the German government is looking into a report that weapons bound for the Syrian regime were loaded onto a German-owned ship.

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the Atlantic Cruiser was halted in the Mediterranean after its owners were warned it was suspected of carrying Iranian military equipment to Tartus in Syria.

Der Spiegel quoted shipping agent Torsten Lueddeke of Hamburg-based CEG Bulk Chartering as saying: "We stopped the ship after we received information on the weapons cargo."

He said the ship was chartered to Ukraine-based White Whale Shipping, and they said the ship was carrying pumps and similar equipment.

© Guardian News and Media 2012

Photo of UN peacekeeper by United Nations Photo / Flickr