Annan calls new Syria violence ‘unacceptable’

Kofi Annan’s spokesman says regime troops intimidated and perhaps killed locals who spoke to ceasefire monitors.

Violence homs syria
State TV reported three people were wounded in an attack by an “armed terrorist group” in Marjeh district [AFP]

Syria is still seeing “unacceptable” levels of violence, envoy Kofi Annan has told the UN Security Council,
after dozens of people were reportedly killed across the country despite a ceasefire.

“The situation in Syria continues to be unacceptable,” Annan told a closed-door meeting. He spoke after a car bomb rocked central Damascus, wounding three people, while dozens were killed across the country a day earlier ahead of the deployment of 300 UN peace observers.

Syrian troops have also intimidated and perhaps, in some cases, even killed people who spoke to United Nations truce mediators in the country, a spokesperson for mediator Kofi Annnan said, citing “credible reports”.

Ahmad Fawzi on Tuesday also said that satellite imagery showed that government forces had not withdrawn all heavy weapons from urban centres and returned to their barracks as they are required to do under a UN-backed peace plan.

“They [Syrian authorities] are claiming that this [withdrawal] has happened. Satellite imagery, however, and credible reports show  hat this has not fully happened, so this is unacceptable, and Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan will be saying this to the Security Council today when he addresses them in closed session,” said Fawzi before the briefing.

“We are calling on the Syrian government to fully implement its commitments under the ceasefire,” he said.

Annan, who delivered a speech at Lund University in Sweden on Tuesday, is due to brief the UN Security Council later in the day by video link.

“He will be laying out the challenges on the ground, the challenges of monitoring with very few observers, the challenges of launching a political process while there is no cessation of hostilities, because you need a cessation of hostilities to begin a credible process,” Fawzi said.

Eleven UN observers are deployed in Syria as part of an advance team monitoring compliance with a truce that went into  effect on April 12 but remains “extremely fragile”, he said.

“They are entering areas where there has been conflict like Homs and Hama and when they go [here] the guns are silent,” Fawzi said.

“We have credible reports that when they leave, the exchanges start again, that these people who approach the observers may be approached by the Syrian security forces or the Syrian army or even worse, perhaps killed and this is totally unacceptable,” Fawzi added.

UN ‘brought death’

Manhal, an activist in Hama, told Al Jazeera that the visit of the observers to the central city’s neighbourhood of Arbaeen on Sunday was followed by a brutal crackdown by government forces the next morning.

“UN monitors brought death with them,” Manhal said.

The dead were either killed by shelling or by gunfire, he said, adding that women and elderly were among those killed.

“Old men who tried to flee were targeted by snipers. Many homes were destroyed, many people arrested.”

Manhal said Arbaeen had seen large anti-government protests in the past. Asked whether there were opposition fighters in the area, he said: “There might be, but today’s shelling was targeted to kill, not to arrest.

At least 50 people were killed in the city that day, according to the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an opposition activist network.

On Tuesday,  activists said that five people were killed in Douma and dozens of others wounded, as regime forces shelled the town, just a day after to the area by UN monitors.

The LCC said the city was enduring “the most brutal shelling since the protest movement began [in March 2011]”.

“Douma is suffering a humanitarian disaster… It is extremely difficult to treat the wounded and there is a severe shortage of medical supplies,” the group said in a statement.

Car bomb blast

Meanwhile, in central the capital, State TV reported that three people were wounded when the car bomb that went off in the Marjeh district, blaming an “armed terrorist group”.

“An armed terrorist group detonated the car bomb near the Yelbugha complex in Marjeh, wounding three people and causing damage to nearby buildings,” state-media said.

State news agency SANA said the bomb was placed under the car of an unsuspecting man, who was among those hurt.

UN monitors have toured several protest hubs since their arrival in the country earlier this month, including the battered city of Homs, where two of them set up base at the weekend.

During their visits, they have been greeted by thousands of protesters demanding the removal of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Despite scepticism over the ability of the UN mission to halt violence, UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday gave the go-ahead for the deployment of 300 ceasefire monitors from next week.

Ban insisted that the Assad government ensure the protection of the unarmed observers and allow them to travel freely throughout the country.

Obama announced additions to the pile of US sanctions already faced by the two governments as part of a wider effort to crack down on human rights abuses, atrocities and genocide.

The measures will hit the two governments but also companies that help create systems that track or monitor their people for killing, torture or other abuses and prevent individuals involved from entering the United States.

Source: News Agencies