News

    Syrian Clashes Continue as UN Monitors Begin Mission

    U.N. monitors walk through a hotel in Damascus, April 16, 2012.
    U.N. monitors walk through a hotel in Damascus, April 16, 2012.

    An advance team of six United Nations observers has begun monitoring a four-day-old cease-fire in Syria even as the truce appeared to be unraveling, with activists reporting at least 14 civilians killed by security forces in a continuing crackdown on a year-long uprising.

    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA the civilians were killed Monday in government attacks across the country, including a third day of artillery strikes on rebel-held neighborhoods of Homs, Syria's third-largest city.  The group says several civilians also were killed in attacks in the northern region of Idlib and the central region of Hama.  The casualties could not be independently verified.

    A Moroccan U.N. observer said he was "optimistic" about prospects for the shaky cease-fire as he and other members of the advance team began talks with Syrian officials in Damascus.  The six unarmed U.N. soldiers arrived in Syria late Sunday.  Moroccan Colonel Ahmed Himmiche said they will work to achieve their goals "as soon as possible."

    A spokesman for international envoy Kofi Annan, Ahmad Fawzi, said the advance team "will start with setting up operating headquarters and reaching out to the Syrian government and opposition forces so both sides fully understand the role of the U.N. observers."  He said an additional 25 monitors are expected to arrive within days.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday the Syrian government has a "responsibility" to ensure that the observers can move freely to monitor the truce, which took effect last Thursday as part of a U.N.-backed peace plan approved by Damascus.  Ban also urged Syrian security forces to exercise restraint and called on rebels to fully cooperate with the cease-fire, which he acknowledged is "very fragile."

    The U.N. Security Council approved the deployment of 30 observers to Syria in a resolution adopted unanimously on Saturday.  Annan has called for the monitoring team to be expanded to 250 personnel, but a second Council resolution is required for such a step.

    The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said Monday that if Syria's violence persists despite the cease-fire, "it will call into question the wisdom ... of sending in the full monitoring presence."

    Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani said the U.N.-backed Syria peace plan drafted by Annan has a "less than a three percent" chance of success. Qatar has been one of the strongest advocates of tougher international action to force the Syrian government to stop its crackdown.

    Speaking on a visit to Rome, Al Thani said the Security Council's latest decision to adopt a resolution only authorizing a small observer mission in Syria is "immoral" while the Syrian people are "oppressed and killed .. every day," as he put it.

    U.N. human rights investigators said Monday they have gathered evidence of Syrian government attacks on civilian areas since the truce began.  The Geneva-based Commission of Inquiry on Syria said Syrian security forces have shelled the Khaldieh district of Homs and used heavy weapons in the regions of Idlib and the Damascus suburbs.

    The panel appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council also said it continued to receive reports of human rights abuses committed by anti-government groups.

    Analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said it appears that the Syrian government and the rebels are not eager for Annan's peace mission to succeed. "Within the opposition there's a temptation to pull the plug on what some see as a distraction from more serious options, and in particular Western military intervention," he said.

    "And within the regime there's an understanding that any genuine political process will come at the expense of (regime members) who benefited from the ongoing crisis and in particular the security services."

    Harling said the international community "supports the mission half-heartedly ... [because] they expect it to fail."

    Members of a Syria-based opposition group backing a political solution to the crisis expressed support for the Annan peace plan on Monday. Representatives of the National Coordination Committee met Russian officials in Moscow and described the talks as positive, saying they agreed with Russia on supporting Annan's initiative.  

    The Syria-based group has rejected calls by the exiled Syrian National Council for foreign nations to arm the rebels fighting to end President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year autocratic rule.

    The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed since the anti-Assad revolt began over a year ago.

    Edward Yeranian in Cairo and wire services contributed to this report.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.