UN Observers Under Pressure as Syria Bleeds
UN observers in Syria on Tuesday found themselves under pressure to curtail 13-months of violence and buttress a UN-brokered ceasefire deal as at least clashes continue.
Rights activists in the violence-rocked country say at least 23 people were killed on Tuesday, but the day is not yet complete.
According to activists, rebels killed 12 soldiers on Tuesday in the northeastern province of Deir Ezzor.
They said one civilian was also killed when government troops responded with rockets and machine-guns.
Elsewhere, activists reported that a mortar shell struck a village in the northwestern province of Idlib, killing 10 people, nine of them from one family.
The advance team of UN observers has been expanded to 30 unarmed personnel.
Their numbers do not allow them to adequately cover a nation of some 23 million people spread over more than 71,000 miles of disparate terrain.
The UN Security Council has authorized a 300-strong observer mission, but it is not clear when it will be fully deployed.
There have been reports of government forces staging deadly raids in areas observers have only just departed.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday repeated his call for all sides in Syria's year-plus bloodletting to stop armed violence and cooperate with the UN observers to implement the April 12 cease-fire agreement.
He also condemned a recent series of bombings in the town of Idlib and in the capital, Damascus, calling them “terrorist” attacks.
Syrian state media say a double suicide bombing in Idlib killed at least nine people on Monday. A suicide car bombing in Damascus killed at least nine others on Friday.
An Islamist group calling itself the al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the Damascus attack.
The Syrian government blames the bombings on “armed terrorists,” a term it uses for rebels from the Syrian Free Army who are at the fore of an armed uprising against the 11-year autocratic rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
However, opposition activists and allied lawmakers in neighboring countries accuse the government of orchestrating the attacks to discredit the opposition.
SFA forces are primarily comprised of lightly armed and poorly organized Syrian army defectors who are commanded by dissident senior officers who have taken refuge in Turkey.
Analysts note they have not demonstrated technical or organizational sophistication to conduct an ongoing bombing campaign such as the one carried out by the al-Nusra Front. Nor have they been known to target civilians.
Instead, SFA forces have restricted themselves to traditional guerilla hit-and-run and ambush tactics targeting soldiers rather than civilians.
The United Nations estimates that at least 9,100 people have