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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs