News / Middle East

    UN Monitor Chief: Violence in Syria Reaches 'Unprecedented' Levels

    Major General Robert Mood (L), chief of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), addresses a news conference in Damascus, next to his spokeswoman Sawsan Ghoshe, July 5, 2012.
    Major General Robert Mood (L), chief of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), addresses a news conference in Damascus, next to his spokeswoman Sawsan Ghoshe, July 5, 2012.
    VOA News
    The head of the United Nations monitoring mission in Syria says violence there has reached "unprecedented" levels, and that a cease-fire must be implemented in order for his unarmed observer teams to resume their mission, which was suspended last month.

    Al-Qaida militants

    Major General Robert Mood's comments Thursday came as Syrian troops battled anti-government rebels across the country and Iraq's foreign minister said Baghdad has "solid intelligence" that al-Qaida militants are crossing from Iraq into Syria to carry out attacks.

    Speaking to reporters in Damascus, General Mood said the escalating violence has obstructed the monitors' "ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue." He said consolidating the mission's eight bases into regional centers would improve its effectiveness, although he did not explain how that would work.

    Mood said the international community had a "moral and political" responsibility towards Syria's people.

    "We cannot and we will not turn our eyes and ears away from your plight, and we'll continue our work to find new paths to political dialogue and peaceful resolution to the crisis," he said.

    Mood halted the U.N. monitoring team's operations on June 16 after it was the target of numerous gunfire and bomb attacks.

    Reports of government attacks

    Violence in Syria continued Thursday as activists said government troops backed by helicopters advanced into the rebellious northern town of Khan Sheikhoun after shelling it with mortars and burning nearby settlements. Residents in the central city of Homs also reported heavy government attacks.

    Syrian protesters wave Syrian opposition flags as they shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, July 5, 2012.Syrian protesters wave Syrian opposition flags as they shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, July 5, 2012.
    x
    Syrian protesters wave Syrian opposition flags as they shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, July 5, 2012.
    Syrian protesters wave Syrian opposition flags as they shout slogans against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad outside the Syrian embassy in Amman, July 5, 2012.
    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 27 people killed nationwide Thursday, a day after 99 people died in violence that has plagued the country for nearly 16 months. Activists say the carnage has spiked this week, as daily death tolls continue to rise. VOA cannot independently confirm the reports of casualties or violence because Syria has severely restricted access by international journalists.

    In Baghdad, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said al-Qaida "operational officers" were infiltrating Syria "to help, liaise and carry out terrorist attacks." Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who belongs to the minority Alawite sect, has contended that outside terrorist agitators - including those associated with the Sunni Islamist al-Qaida network - are responsible for much of Syria's violence.

    That assertion was partly corroborated Tuesday when the al-Qaida-aligned Al Nusra Front claimed responsibility for a number of attacks on pro-government targets in Syria last month, including an audacious raid on a television station that killed seven employees.

    Free Syrian Army

    The rebel Free Syrian Army has repudiated terrorism and rejected any cooperation with extremist groups who may be exploiting Syria's chaos for their own purposes.

    On Friday, France is set to host about 100 delegations for a "Friends of Syria" meeting - one which Russia and China say they will not attend. Neither country appeared at the group's previous meetings in April and February.

    Several Western nations said an accord reached last Saturday in Geneva calling for a transitional governing body in Syria precludes Assad from joining a transitional government. However, Russia and China say there is no such stipulation. Moscow and Beijing have used their veto power in the U.N. Security Council to block several rounds of proposed sanctions against Damascus.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Thursday dismissed suggestions Moscow was planning to offer political asylum to Assad. He said the idea was first raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during talks last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and that "our delegation took it as a joke."

    WikiLeaks

    Also Thursday, the WikiLeaks website said it has begun publishing material from 2.4 million emails from Syrian political figures, government ministries and companies.

    WikiLeaks spokeswoman Sarah Harrison quoted the controversial website's founder, Julian Assange, as saying the material is "embarrassing to Syria, but also embarrassing to Syria's external opponents." She said the emails dated from August 2006 to March 2012.

    WikiLeaks said the emails, which it is calling The Syria Files, would shine a light on the inner workings of the Syrian government and economy, and also reveal "how the West and Western companies say one thing and do another."
     

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

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    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 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 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.