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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora