News / Middle East

    Dozens More Killed in Syrian Violence

    This image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed June 18, 2012, purports to show a Syrian military tank in Daraa, Syria.
    This image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed June 18, 2012, purports to show a Syrian military tank in Daraa, Syria.
    Syrian activists say violence across the country Monday killed at least 56 people, as diplomats anticipate a stark update on the situation from the head of the U.N. observer mission on the ground.
     
    The head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdelrahman, told VOA that the heaviest fighting and shelling was in Homs city and in areas of Damascus province. He said two children were among those killed in Douma, an area that Syrian forces have bombarded for days.

    The death toll cannot be independently verified.

    The escalating violence forced some 300 unarmed U.N. observers to suspend their monitoring mission two days ago. The U.N. sent its observers to Syria to monitor the implementation of a six-point peace plan and cease-fire brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan. The cease-fire never took hold and a group of observers came under attack last week when they went to visit the town of al-Haffeh.

    Diplomats at the United Nations have confirmed that the head of the observer mission, Major General Robert Mood, will brief the Security Council on the Syrian crisis during closed consultations on Tuesday. The U.N. Security Council must decide whether to renew the mission by July 15.

    British ambassador to the U.N., Mark Lyall Grant, said he would not entirely rule out the possibility of pulling the mission's mandate ahead of schedule due to recent developments on the ground.

    "We are very concerned about the increasing levels of violence, and we lay all the responsibility for that at the door of the Syrian regime," he said. "I think what we will want to hear from General Mood is what he thinks the prognosis is for the mission, and I think there will be a lot of member states of the council, including us, who will be questioning now what the future is for the mission and, therefore, by extension the Annan plan."

    Syrian opposition officials in Istanbul, including the Syrian National Council's Bassam Imadi, said recently they believe the U.N. mission has failed.
     
    Meanwhile, Arab League chief Nabil El-Araby said during a visit to Cyprus that international peacekeepers should be deployed to Syria.

    "When there are two parties that have resorted to fighting you cannot get someone just to observe unless they both accept," El-Araby said. "So, what you need is someone who can impose a cease-fire, not fight, impose a cease-fire."

    While he stressed that the Syrian crisis was an "internal matter," he said a meeting between the Russian and U.S. leaders on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Mexico will be the "most important" event in enlisting outside support for efforts to end the conflict in Syria "in a way that will give the Syrian people the right to attain their legitimate demands."

    U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a joint statement after the meeting that they were "united" in the belief that the Syrian people should have the opportunity to "democratically choose their own future." Neither leader mentioned any of the disagreements that have divided the two countries on how to resolve the Syrian conflict.
     
    Russia, a longtime ally of Syria, has shielded President Bashar al-Assad from U.N. sanctions sought by Western and Arab powers who oppose his 11-year rule.

    Speaking in Geneva Monday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad may be guilty of war crimes for the killing of innocent civilians.  

    “All violations of the human rights of the Syrian people at the hands of all parties to the conflict must end," Pillay said at the opening of the 20th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.  "The government of Syria should immediately cease the use of heavy armaments and shelling of populated areas, as such actions amount to crimes against humanity and possible war crimes.”

    Opposition groups say more than 14,000 people have died in the unrest since March of last year.

    Lisa Schlein from Geneva and Margaret Besheer from the United Nations
    contributed to this report.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

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    Comments
         
    by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
    June 18, 2012 4:23 PM
    Gosh fellas. Russian's sending troops and ships to Syria. This is a clear sign of desperation. Russia is a desperate team on the pitch. Yes sir. Why? No team sends in a ramp up in forces...and these are clearly evacuation forces....if they didn't hold a precarious position on the field of play.

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