News

    Top UN Truce Monitor in Syria, Urges Halt to Killings

    UN-appointed Norwegian Major General Robert Mood talks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, April 29, 2012.
    UN-appointed Norwegian Major General Robert Mood talks to the media after his arrival at Damascus airport, April 29, 2012.

    The newly appointed head of the United Nations observer mission in Syria has called on President Bashar al-Assad's troops and the opposition to stop fighting and allow a tenuous cease-fire to take hold.

    Major General Robert Mood arrived in the capital, Damascus, on Sunday to lead an advance team of 30 unarmed U.N. observers tasked with monitoring an April 12 truce that has been plagued by continued fighting.

    The Norwegian general appealed for a "cessation of all armed violence" but said U.N. monitors "cannot solve all the problems" in Syria, asking for cooperation from forces loyal to Mr. Assad as well as rebels seeking to end his rule.

    Even as he spoke Sunday, activists reported at least 25 people killed in violence throughout the country, including 14 civilians shot dead by troops in the village of Hamadi Omar in central Hama province.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group tracking the conflict, said other fatalities included two people killed by government snipers in Homs, and three soldiers who died in clashes with army defectors.

    Also Sunday, an Islamist group calling itself the "al-Nusra Front" claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed at least nine people in Damascus on Friday.

    The latest casualty figures as well as the claim for the attack Friday could not be independently confirmed.

    Al-Nusra named the bomber as Abu Omar al-Shami and said he detonated his explosives amidst 150 Syrian security forces who were gathered outside the Zain al-Abideen mosque in the capital's Midan district.

    The group has also claimed responsibility for a January suicide bombing in Midan and other bombings in Damascus and in the northern city of Aleppo.

    Since the truce took effect, forces loyal to Mr. Assad have continued assaulting opposition hubs, while rebel fighters have repeatedly ambushed government security personnel. Each side has accused the other of provoking attacks.

    The U.N.-backed cease-fire is part of a peace plan mediated by international envoy Kofi Annan.

    A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Syria said observers have set up permanent bases in the towns of Homs, Hama, Daraa and Idlib, all areas of the opposition targeted in the government's 13-month crackdown.

    Neeraj Singh also said it is a "matter of utmost urgency" for the United Nations to expand the monitoring mission in Syria to include all of the 300 personnel authorized by the U.N. Security Council. It is unclear when and if the full contingent will be deployed.

    General Mood has years of experience in U.N. peacekeeping operations, including with peacekeepers in Lebanon, as well as leading the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization from 2009 to 2011. The UNTSO was the U.N.'s first peacekeeping operation, started after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war to monitor a cease-fire. It now watches cease-fires around the Middle East.

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

    Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
    Middle East Voices
    . Follow our Middle East reports on
    Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.