More U.N. monitors heading to Syria as 13 people killed

BEIRUT Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:22pm EDT

1 of 14. Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad after Friday Prayers in Kafranbel, near Idlib April 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Raad Al Fares/Shaam News Network/Handout

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BEIRUT (Reuters) - An additional 30 United Nations monitors should arrive in Syria in the coming week to join an advance team of seven observing a fragile week-long ceasefire which has failed to end bloodshed in the country, a spokesman for envoy Kofi Annan said on Friday.

At least 23 people were killed, 10 of them in a roadside bomb targeting security forces and most of the others in shelling by President Bashar al-Assad's forces on the city of Homs, further undermining the truce.

With Friday prayers a weekly flashpoint for unrest, the monitors decided to remain indoors, saying they wanted to avoid being "used as a tool for escalating the situation". A day earlier they were mobbed by anti-Assad protesters on their initial forays around the country.

Peace envoy Kofi Annan's deputy, former Palestinian foreign minister Nasser al-Kidwa, criticized both sides, but particularly government forces, for refusing to stop fighting completely.

"We don't see much of a ceasefire," he told France 24 television. "The situation of course is not good. There are many reasons to be worried by the lack of implementation, at least lack of full implementation by Syrian government and perhaps some other parties as well."

Syria said 10 security personnel were killed in a roadside bomb in Sahm al-Golan in the southwest, as protests calling for the downfall of Assad broke out across the country, including in the capital Damascus.

Activists in the central city of Hama said people were wounded when security forces opened fire on protesters.

Several neighborhoods in the rebel stronghold of Homs were shelled, activists said, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said at least 13 people were killed, most of them in Homs.

300 MORE

The U.N. monitoring mission is seen as the last chance to avoid civil war in Syria where Assad sent tanks and troops to quell protests against his 12-year rule, which started peacefully a year ago but have taken a militarized turn.

Annan is hoping the U.N. Security Council will in the next two to three days agree to send a second wave of up to 300 more observers. His spokesman said the mission was being prepared.

"We are preparing for the deployment because we feel that it is going to happen sooner or later because it must happen," spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told a news briefing in Geneva.

"The situation on the ground is not good," he said.

The Security Council - divided between Western countries that want to topple Assad, and Russia and China which support him - must agree if the larger observer team is to be sent to help quell the violence that has killed thousands of people.

While Russia circulated a draft Security Council resolution to authorize the 300-strong unarmed ceasefire force, France said it was drafting another resolution that would allow a larger observer force, with up to 500 observers as well as helicopters.

China said it was willing to contribute members to the observer team in Syria.

"We are willing to send personnel to take part in the work of this team and the advanced team. We are now in consultations with the United Nations secretariat about the specific arrangements." said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin

He said the overall size of the monitoring effort would have to be settled by the Security Council and so could not say how big China's contribution would be.

Top U.N. humanitarian official John Ging said he hoped Syria would grant permission in the coming days to send more aid workers to the country where at least 1 million people are in need of urgent assistance.

He told reporters in Geneva that Syria had recognized there were "serious humanitarian needs" and that action was required, but logistical issues and visas for aid workers are still being discussed.

On Thursday, Syria and the United Nations signed an agreement setting out the working conditions for hundreds of ceasefire observers.

The agreement stipulates "unfettered access" and freedom for monitors to travel and contact people within the framework of their mandate, Fawzi said.

(Additional reporting by Chris Buckley in Beijing, John Irish in Paris and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Comments (12)
Fromkin wrote:
Why this picture everyday? When you check other sites you see beauty about Syria but Reuters just want to show old war pictures and images of destruction. Can you show the beautiful syrian cities with modern art-deco buildings and beautiful mosaic designs instead of images depicting hell? Are you just trying to depress people by propagating images of hopelessness? Stop this mind game. Life is more or less normal in Syria now. Probabaly better than Tripoli or Bagdad…

Apr 20, 2012 8:10am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Austell wrote:
Why is the ‘Friends of Syria’ group made up of all of Syrias biggest historic ENEMIES????!!

It wouldn’t be propaganda if it wasn’t ridiculous I guess…

Apr 20, 2012 8:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Austell wrote:
Fromkin;

One of Reuters favorite tricks is to show ONLY ‘close in’ shots of protests. That way you can’t tell how absolutely tiny they are!

If they showed us wide angle or birds eye shots of these protests it would look like a strike out the front of a rubber speed bump factory… and we would all realize that this is only about 0.0001% of the Syrian population.

And that they are Islamists lead by US interests to seize Syria, and on to Iran!

Even after the mess of Libya, people being raped and tortured, executed and lynched in the streets… a terrorist takover of the whole country!!! Even after this we press on as usual wreaking as much havoc as possible with more propaganda than imaginable…

Bravo, your tyranny will echo through the ages!!!

People will speak of you as they do Hitler and the third reich!

That will be your legacy, and your families will share it with the families of nazi war criminals, forever shamed and stained in blood…

Apr 20, 2012 8:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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