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      UN Observers in Syria Explore Homs

      Two United Nations monitors have moved into an upscale hotel in Syria's central city of Homs, hoping to at least reduce violence there.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 4/29/2012, 1:21 PM

      UN Monitors after visit to Homs
      UN Monitors after visit to Homs
      Reuters

      Two United Nations monitors have moved into an upscale hotel in Syria's central city of Homs, hoping to at least reduce violence there.

      The state-run SANA news agency released a statement saying the observers toured the Khaldiyeh district, where heavy government artillery was fired at civilian homes. The observers saw buildings reduced to rubble, the result of the frequent clashes between rebel forces and those loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

      An amateur video was also posted online Saturday, showing the pair walking through a heavily damaged neighborhood in Syria's third largest city.

      But little else is known about the activities of the initial 15 members of the U.N. observer team, of whom at least 100 are expected to arrive in the next two weeks. A group of the monitors have made similar weekly visits to Homs, also carefully orchestrated, for the past several weeks.

      The head of the team, Norwegian Maj.-Gen. Robert Mood, is expected to arrive Sunday in Damascus to assume command of the force, said mission spokesperson Neeraj Singh.

      A peace plan cobbled together by former U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan, on behalf of the international body and the Arab League calls for a total of 300 monitors to arrive.

      The so-called “truce” that allegedly began April 12 has been largely ignored by both sides. The government, which was to withdraw its military hardware and forces from residential neighborhoods and other populated areas, has done neither. The rebels have likewise continued their ambushes on government forces.

      Nearly 10,000 civilians have died in the uprising that began in March 2011 with the start of the Arab Spring protests, according to human rights organizations and some estimates by the U.N.