UN observers leave Syria: too much violence to observe
The United Nation’s troubled observer mission to Syria has officially ended after being recalled amid escalating violence as world powers fail to agree how to end months of bloodshed in the country.
The mandate of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) expired at midnight Sunday after a roughly four-month deployment in which its work was hobbled by growing unrest that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
Created after a U.N. Security Council resolution in April, a team of some 300 truce monitors was progressively deployed into Syria as part of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan to end the conflict.
It was suspended in June and numbers cut back because of the mounting violence, as both sides violated a ceasefire that was meant to have been the cornerstone of Annan’s plan.
The departing U.N. observer mission chief on Saturday accused both Syrian army and rebel forces of failing to protect civilians.
“Both parties have obligations under international humanitarian law to make sure that civilians are protected,” General Babacar Gaye, head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria, told reporters in Damascus.
“These obligations have not been respected.”
Annan, a former U.N. secretary general, steps down as international envoy on Syria at the end of this month after complaining about a lack of international support for his six-month campaign to make President Bashar al-Assad and opposition fighters end their hostilities.
The United Nations plans to maintain a political liaison office in Damascus to support the mediation efforts of his successor, veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar al-Ibrahim.
Officials have said the liaison office would probably be made up of between 20 and 30 people, including political, humanitarian and military experts.
Early Monday, in the second day of the Muslim occasion of Eid al-Fitr, clashes between Free Syrian Army and Assad’s forces marred al-Tadhamun neighborhood in Damascus, Syrian Revolution General Commission reported.
In the capital, smoke was also seen billowing from al-Maza airport, the Local Coordination Committees reported.
LCC said more than 170 people were killed across Syria on Saturday.
The Syrian Media Center, meanwhile, reported on Monday of people killed and wounded after rocket shelling on the southern city of Deraa al-Balad.
Ahmed al-Darawi a representative from the center in Deraa described the situation in Deraa al-Balad as “miserable.”
Asked about the expected efforts from Ibrahimi, Darawi said the new U.N. envoy cannot fix what Assad has spoiled.
Meanwhile, Ibrahimi denied that he said that it will be early to talk about the stepping down of President Assad. He also rebuffed requests from the Syrian opposition for him to apologize for the alleged statement, saying that it will not only be not suitable for him but also for the opposition to do so.
What began in March 2011 as a peaceful uprising demanding the fall of Assad’s regime has grown into a bloody insurgency, after the army and security forces launched a major crackdown across the country.
More than 23,000 people have been killed, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, while the U.N. puts the death toll at 17,000 people.
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