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    Syrian Violence Continues as Monitoring Chief Heads to Country

    Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Kafranbel, near Idlib, April 27, 2012.
    Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Kafranbel, near Idlib, April 27, 2012.

    The head of the United Nations observer team in Syria, Norwegian Gen. Robert Mood is due in the capital Damascus Saturday, to give a fresh impetus to a mission which critics claim is fraying amid persistent violations of an over two-week old ceasefire.  There have been reports of more clashes between government and opposition forces in several areas of the country.

    A U.N. observer team visited the flashpoint city of Homs Saturday afternoon, just as the Norwegian general due to take charge of the mission headed to Damascus. Major General Robert Mood is a veteran of numerous U.N. peacekeeping missions.

    Reported deaths in violence across Syria

    Just over a dozen U.N. observers are now on the ground in Syria, despite efforts to boost the strength of the team to the 300-strong force approved by the U.N. Security Council.   But Colonel Amed Himiche, a member of the observer team,  said preparations are now complete in Syria for the arrival of the full 300 member observer team.

    Clashes between government troops and rebel soldiers took place near the presidential palace in Latakia and the outskirts of Damascus, amid reports of fresh desertions to the rebel side.  An activist told the French Press Agency that soldiers from a military base near the palace “deserted with their weapons.”

    Syria's official state news agency SANA reported that a clash near Syria's commercial capital of Aleppo left three soldiers and two rebels dead. The agency also said that a loyalist military unit thwarted an attempt by armed rebels “trying to infiltrate from the sea” in Latakia.

    In nearby Lebanon, the country's navy intercepted a ship off the coast that was reportedly carrying weapons from Libya to the Syrian rebels. The Liberian-flagged vessel was due to dock in the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli.

    The Syrian government has complained repeatedly that weapons were being smuggled from neighboring countries to help the rebels. The rebels, in turn, complain that Syrian allies Iran and Russia have been arming the government.

    Scholar Joshua Landis, who heads the Middle East program at the University of Oklahoma, argues that both the government and the opposition are using the brokered ceasefire to rearm and regroup:

    “The Annan peace plan is being used by both sides to regroup, rearm and reorganize. The Syrian regime is trying to convince the world that it's fighting terrorism and Islamists and the opposition needs a breather to get armed, organized, [and] try to knit together some communications network that will help them bring together their scattered groups and militias and recover from this offensive waged against them by the regime in the last few months," he said.

    Landis was pessimistic about long term chances that the peace plan for Syria would work. "Both sides,” he said,”are raising the ante. Larger weapons are being used and we're seeing more carbombs, assassinations, and attacks on vehicles.” He also warned that a series of “tit-for-tat sectarian revenge attacks” is threatening a further “downward spiral.”

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    Comments page of 2
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    by: AbuAbdAllah_Muhammad_IbnMusa
    April 30, 2012 5:17 PM
    Sami, you and your Palestinian friends need to learn how to minimise the damage by knowing when you have lost a war and by not prolonging it. We told you from the beginning you don't have the right to "protest" anything, and nobody is stupid enough to believe you are peaceful at all, so you know what is waiting for all of you if you fail to obey. No more talking, you will be exterminated because you don't even understand the simplest of instructions. You are useless to Syria.

    by: Sami Haddad
    April 29, 2012 9:45 AM
    Will the world stop playing these silly games and take the situation in Syria seriously? Bashar Assad and his supporters have no intention of stop their killing of Syrians until only there are Alawites left in Syria. Once the Sunni Muslims are exterminated, Assad will wipe out the Syrian Christians. Either the world must eliminate Assad and his supporters from power in Syria or watch the next genocide of the 21st century.

    by: Michael
    April 29, 2012 6:05 AM
    Syria qualifies for what the late Pope Pius XII called the 'sea of calamity.' By the way, no one is mentioning what the Vatican is doing during this troubled situation. Syria, after all, figures large in its Christian history

    by: MARTELI
    April 29, 2012 4:23 AM
    Why China and Russia doesn't go help those trouble Arabs or extrimist muslims they are always have war or having trouble.
    America is not a security guard around the world.

    by: Natasha
    April 29, 2012 12:07 AM
    What some usually call "Pro-Democracy Forces in Syria" are really various groups of terrorists. Mc Cain is a terrorist supporter, no more, no less.

    by: lishan
    April 28, 2012 11:04 PM
    the usa and its follows should go out of arab world..

    by: Loeber
    April 28, 2012 8:27 PM
    the cowards we have to leaders in the West .. 387 days of murder and maiming of civilian demonstrator who protest and want to end 40 years of tyranny .. it is embarrassing and shameful to watch these grown men leaders of nations and military men cowering before the tyrants in China, Damascus and the Kremlin .. they have to watch while 20,000 or hundreds of thousands are murdered .. in Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Liberia .. cowards ..

    by: Paul
    April 28, 2012 5:15 AM
    Considering that the Arab world considers Israel's interception of ships bound for Gaza as piracy, will the Lebanese turn themselves in to the international authorities?

    Answer: of course not.. Arab nations are permitted what others are not.

    by: oghenekome
    April 28, 2012 4:48 AM
    UN secretary General ban ki moooon is a betrayal of the syria citizens, because according to his statement he is supporting the western countries/ rebels to destablise Syria, that he must stop.

    by: Anthony Fernandes
    April 28, 2012 4:00 AM
    It is not understandable why the western media is"siding" with the rebels, knowing fully well that the USA wants to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by hook or by crook, bwefore the US Presidential elections. That has always been the US's ploy.Sometimes ethnic-cleansing,sometimes wmd, sometimes regime change .With countries like India-arse-cleansing. There are no buyers for US supremacy in Asia now. .
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