First UN observers arrive in Syria amid faltering lull
AA photoSyrian forces reportedly killed four civilians in shelling of rebel areas and clashes with gunmen yesterday, testing a shaky U.N.-backed cease-fire as international monitors prepared to fly in.
A day after the Security Council vote, the first half-dozen observers from an advance team for the U.N. mission boarded a plane from New York for the Syrian capital yesterday. The next 25 will come from missions around the Middle East and Africa “so we can move people quickly and they are experienced in the region,” U.N. peacekeeping department spokesman Kieran Dwyer said. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on April 14 that the Syrian government had the prime responsibility to stop the violence in the country and withdraw its forces from urban areas in line with Annan’s peace plan.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad subjected the Khaldiyeh and Bayada neighborhoods of the flashpoint central city of Homs to their fiercest bombardment since the truce came into force at dawn on April 12, monitors said. Three civilians died in the Homs shelling on April 14, among 14 people reported killed nationwide.
Elsewhere, rebel fighters reportedly clashed with security forces in the northern province of Aleppo. Opposition groups said the army shelled the village of Khirbet al-Joz in the northwestern province of Idlib. Since the cease-fire brokered by U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan took effect, 32 people have been killed, most of them civilians, the activists said.
Muallem blames Turkey
In a letter addressed to Ban, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem wrote the latest attacks on the Syrian-Turkish borders were part of a “plot conducted by the Turkish government against Syria,” Al Arabiya reported. Muallem said Turkey’s “permission to grant armed groups use of its territories to launch attacks on a neighboring country is considered an assault” and should be condemned by the U.N. General Assembly.
Syria vows to prevent ‘terrorists’
The authorities said yesterday that rebels had “intensified” attacks on security forces and civilians, warning of a response, as state media published a list of alleged acts of violence. Security forces “will prevent the terrorist groups from continuing their criminal attacks,” said a military official quoted on state media.