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Unrest Continues in Syria

Syrians wave Islamic and revolutionary flags at a large protest in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, April 20, 2012.
Syrians wave Islamic and revolutionary flags at a large protest in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, April 20, 2012.

The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution sending 300 unarmed observers to Syria, boosting the strength of a previously approved force of 30. The move comes as a ten-day-old cease-fire agreement has failed, so far, to bring an end to violence in many parts of the country. 

A mostly young crowd swarmed the U.N. observer team in Homs Jourt al-Shiyah district, presenting their complaints against the Syrian government and chanting slogans against it. Witnesses say government forces halted shelling earlier and withdrew tanks from some areas. Other reports say shelling resumed elsewhere in Homs, later.

Near the capital Damascus, an explosion rocked the Mazzeh military airport, sending plumes of black smoke into the air. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast, but Syrian troops closed off the area, diverting traffic from a nearby highway.

Syrian government media accused what it calls “armed terrorists” of causing an explosion on an oil pipeline in eastern Deir el-Zour province. The Syrian government once relied on oil exports for several billion dollars of revenues each year. EU sanctions in late 2011 brought much of that trade to a halt.

Witnesses also reported that Syrian troops pounded the Arbeyne district of Hama, as tanks entered the area. Al-Arabiya TV also reported that Syrian helicopters strafed parts of Bou Kamel along the border with Iraq.

Opposition sources also claim that that Syrian security forces made numerous arrests after storming areas outside Idlib, Daraa and the capital Damascus. A U.N.-Arab League peace plan calls on Syria to withdraw its forces from urban centers and to release thousands of prisoners.

An advance team of 7 U.N. observers has visited parts of the capital Damascus, the southern city of Daraa and Homs in the week since it began its mission.  More observers are expected to deploy soon.  

Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, argues that the international community has yet to implement strong measures against Damascus.

"The international community and the [U.N.] Security Council are continuing to give Assad one reprieve after another," said Khashan. "The Russians will never allow the Security Council to adopt a serious measure against the regime. If something dramatic were to happen it would have to be the labor of the Syrian people and they should not really expect the world to do anything for them."

The U.N. estimates that over 9,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government's crackdown on the popular uprising which began in March 2011. Opposition sources put the death toll much higher.

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