Call for more UN observers as Syrian troops continue to kill post-ceasefire


AN EXPLOSION ripped through a building in Syria’s central city of Hama yesterday, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens more, the Britain-based opposition group, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, in a bloody violation of a shaky ceasefire.

The grassroots Local Coordination Committee said security forces fired a rocket at the building and put the death toll much higher, with 54 dead, several of them children.

Syrian troops yesterday targeted the restive town of Douma, northwest of Damascus, with mortar shells and machine guns, report opposition activists.

Four civilians were killed when security forces fired on a bus in Idlib province and five others were killed elsewhere, taking the toll to more than 300 since the ceasefire began on April 12th.

Activists urged UN monitors to base themselves in contested areas to deter such attacks and accused the UN of “playing with Syrian lives” by delaying their deployment.

The state news agency Sana said a suicide bomber struck a checkpoint on a highway in the Idlib province, killing one security officer and injuring two, while a roadside bomb wounded three people in Aleppo province. Four other fatal shootings and kidnappings were also reported.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan told the Security Council that the situation in the country is “bleak” and voiced his concern about military operations in towns where observers are absent.

He said he was alarmed by reports that troops had entered Hama following a tour by monitors and killed “a significant” number of people. “If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible,” he said.

Mr Annan urged early deployment of the full contingent of 300 monitors, as they could “change the political dynamics” in Syria.

“We need eyes and ears on the ground – able to move freely and quickly – and to engage all parties; something that must be guaranteed by the Syrian authorities. Sustained pressure and engagement from the international community is essential.”

Fifteen monitors are in the country and 15 are expected to arrive by the end of the month, but UN peace-keeping chief Hervé Ladsous said it could take up to a month to deploy 100. He said Damascus rejects monitors from western and Arab members of the Friends of Syria group which supports the opposition.

Opposition activists say the presence of monitors in flashpoint areas seems to calm the situation, citing the case of Homs, where two have been based since the weekend. – (Additional reporting: Reuters)