Syria violence hits observer convoy

Syria violence hits observer convoy

DARAA, Syria
Syria violence hits observer convoy

Wounded Syrian soldiers are escorted following a roadside bomb attack which targeted their convoy as they escorted UN peace observers, including the Norwegian general who heads the mission, in the southern Syria city of Daraa on May 9. AFP photo

A roadside blast that struck troops escorting U.N. observers in southern Syria yesterday was “a graphic example of violence that the Syrian people do not need,” said the leader of the observer group, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood.

The explosive device, which appeared to have been planted underground, detonated as the four-vehicle convoy entered the city of Daraa. Mood, the head of the 70-strong U.N. mission, was in the convoy but escaped unharmed along with 11 other observers and his spokesman Neeraj Singh. “It is imperative that violence in all its forms must stop,” Mood was quoted as saying by Singh, who added, “We remain focused on our task.” The opposition Syrian National Council accused the regime of being behind the blast. Arab League-U.N. joint envoy Kofi Annan plans to visit Damascus for a second time in the coming weeks, his spokesman said, though this depends on events on the ground. Annan on May 8 said his peace plan that went into effect April 12 but has since been regularly violated by both sides to the conflict was “probably the last chance to avoid civil war” in Syria. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said Washington’s goal was still the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

‘Weapons from Lebanon’
Syrian rebels killed at least seven pro-government militiamen when they attacked a bus carrying the fighters through the suburb of Irbin yesterday with rocket-propelled grenades, activists said. In the meantime, troops attacked rebels hiding out in Douma near Damascus, said activists. One soldier was killed in a clash in northwestern Idlib province, while two soldiers were killed in eastern Deir Ezzor, and another in Aleppo, activists said. In neighboring Lebanon, cross-border gunfire from Syrian forces killed an elderly woman and wounded her daughter on May 8, an official said.

Meanwhile, weapons are being smuggled both ways between Lebanon and Syria, said Terje Roed-Larsen, U.N. special envoy on the disarming of Lebanese militia. In New York, Syria’s U.N. envoy Bashar Ja’afari displayed a CD on Tuesday containing what he said were the confessions of 26 Arabs caught in Syria who had come from Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere via Turkey and Lebanon “to perpetrate terrorist acts.” Ja’afari urged Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to stop “their sponsorship of the armed rebellion.” Turkish president has expressed concern that further escalation of violence in Syria would force larger numbers of Syrians to flee into Turkey. Abdullah Gül told a interview on SKY Arabia television.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.