Clashes rage across Syria as UN ends mission
A boy walks with some belongings recovered from his house in Azaz, in northern Syria. AFP photoDeadly fighting rocked the birthplace of the Syrian uprising yesterday as rebels doggedly resisted a regime onslaught unleashed in the key battleground of Aleppo a month ago, activists said.
At least 44 people were killed, including two children in shelling in Daraa, the cradle of the revolution in the south of Syria, a watchdog said, as the United Nations brought an end to its troubled observer mission in the country. New international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who has said he is not confident of being able to restore peace, warned Aug. 19 that it was now a matter of ending rather than avoiding a civil war after 17 months of bloodshed.
Message from Lavrov
Syria immediately lashed out at comments. “To speak of civil war in Syria contradicts reality and is found only in the head of conspirators,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported. In Helsinki, Russian foreign minister said the U.N. Security Council alone can authorize the use of force against Syria, warning against what he called imposing “democracy by bombs.”
“We find it appropriate to defend the U.N. Charter that states the use of force can be only be decided by the Security Council,” Lavrov said in a speech in Helsinki, where he was meeting Finnish government leaders. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported continued fighting on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. It said clashes erupted between rebels and government troops in Daraa after several areas were shelled, killing 15 people. Fighting also flared in several southern parts of Damascus as the army battles persistent pockets of resistance despite claiming it had retaken most of the capital last month. The Observatory said troops backed by helicopters also pounded several areas of the northern city of Aleppo, including the Salaheddin neighborhood. U.N. observers wound up their troubled mission at midnight Aug. 19 amid a failure by world powers to agree how to respond to al-Assad’s crackdown. Created by a Security Council resolution adopted in April, the team of some 300 observers was progressively deployed as part of then U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.