Syria: Blast near UN monitors
21 May 2012, 12:42
Damascus - A rocket-propelled grenade exploded near a
team of UN observers in a Damascus suburb on Sunday, the military said,
as dozens of people were killed in violence while clashes raged between
regime troops and armed rebels.
At a Nato summit in Chicago,
alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen voiced concern about the violence,
but said Nato had "no intention" of taking military action against the
regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
No one was hurt in the Douma
blast, which came as UN truce mission head Major General Robert Mood
and peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous were leading observers around the
north Damascus suburb, an AFP correspondent reported.
elsewhere in the country at least 48 people were killed, including 34 in
an assault by regime forces on a village in central Hama province, the
Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
troops rained shells down on the village of Souran, it said, describing
the deaths as a "massacre" and urging UN observers to deploy
immediately in the area.
The device in Douma, a rocket
propelled-grenade according to a Syrian army officer in the area,
exploded just a few dozen metres from the UN team.
Decrease in violence
UN observers could not immediately confirm the nature of the explosion,
but urged all parties to respect the ceasefire that went into effect on
12 April and put an end to fighting.
"I think this is clearly
one of these situations where it is absolutely imperative that all
parties exercise restraint and do not engage in any more fighting," said
"There is not a ceasefire. But there has been a
decrease in the level of violence... in large part thanks to the
presence of the UN observers. It is clear at the same time that the
ceasefire is not complete," he said.
Ladsous also reported meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem earlier on Sunday to discuss the observers' mission.
are still some aspects that need to be discussed regarding the function
of the mission," said Ladsous, adding "there were still more aspects
that needed to be looked at and worked out cooperatively".
SANA news agency said Muallem informed Ladsous that armed rebels had
violated the UN-backed ceasefire hundreds of times.
armed opposition has carried out 3 500 violations since the ceasefire
was established," Muallem's spokesperson Jihad Makdisi was quoted as
Fierce clashes between regime troops and rebels
determined to oust Assad from power had been underway in Douma and other
parts of Damascus since the early hours of the day, activists said.
Observatory said regime forces shelled the outskirts of Douma overnight
with rockets crashing into the suburb during the day.
blast followed several other close calls for the UN monitors since they
deployed in Syria, where 260 observers are now on the ground according
On 16 May, a convoy of UN observers was struck by a
homemade bomb in the central city of Homs, damaging three vehicles but
causing no casualties.
A similar convoy was hit by a roadside
bomb on 9 May in the southern province of Daraa, wounding six Syrian
soldiers escorting them.
No Nato intervention
chief Rasmussen said the Chicago summit "strongly condemn[ed] the
behaviour of the Syrian security forces and their crackdowns on the
It also urged "the Syrian leadership to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people".
"But again Nato has no intention to intervene in Syria."
governments have come under criticism for backing an air war in Libya
but ruling out military intervention in Syria, where opposition
demonstrators and badly outgunned rebels have been hammered by
heavily-armed regime forces.
Rasmussen urged the Syrian regime to
comply with a UN ceasefire and peace plan, saying it was "the best
platform for finding a solution in Syria".
The United States is
supplying communication equipment and night-vision goggles to Syrian
rebels, but so far has stopped short of openly arming the rebels.
Hama province "thirty-four people were killed under shelling and
gunfire in Souran village while it was being raided", the Observatory
said, adding that children were among the dead.
Elsewhere across the country 14 other people were killed in violence on Sunday, it added.
latest violence came after the G8 nations said a "political transition"
was needed to end the crisis in Syria, where monitors say more than 12
000 people have died in a government crackdown since March 2011.
The AFP correspondent said the streets of Douma were deserted and most of its shops were closed.
"When the observers leave, the armed men will come back to cause trouble," a soldier told reporters, in a reference to rebels.
After the blast, Ladsous described what he saw of Douma as "a city paralysed".
"People who cannot go out, who cannot exercise their normal lives, this is simply hard to accept."
gunmen assassinated ruling Baath party official Adib Habb al-Rumman in
the city of Jisr al-Shughur, in northwestern Idlib province, the
"There is definitely an increase in
assassinations targeting people associated with the regime, be they
officials or pro-regime businessmen," Observatory chief Rami Abdel
Also on Sunday protests took place in southern Daraa
province to demand the release of activist and citizen journalist
Mohammed al-Hariri, who was arrested on 16 April after he gave an
interview to Al-Jazeera.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Hariri has been sentenced to death for "high treason".
foreign ministry spokesperson Makdisi said meanwhile that Kofi Annan,
the special UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, was expected in Damascus at
the end of the month and that Syria "welcomes" the visit.