Two sides escalating violence in Syria, says UN


Both rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are intensifying violence in Syria and striving for military gains rather than peaceful transition, chief UN monitor in Syria Maj-Gen Robert Mood said yesterday.

Russia dug in further against western pressure to discuss a post-Assad Syria, and France’s foreign minister said Paris was considering whether to equip rebels with communications equipment to encourage a “stronger revolt”.

At least 34 people were killed in Syria yesterday, said the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, most of them by Assad’s forces.

The group, which has a network of activists across Syria, said the death toll included at least six members of Assad’s forces who were killed in clashes with rebels.

“Violence over the past 10 days has been intensified, again willingly by both parties, with losses on both sides and at significant risk to our observers,” Mr Mood told reporters in Damascus. “There appears to be a lack of willingness to see a peaceful transition. Instead, there is a push towards advancing military positions.”

In Moscow, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said discussions regarding a political transformation in Syria after Assad “are not being held and cannot be held, because to decide for the Syrian people contradicts our position completely”. “We do not get involved in overthrowing regimes – neither through approval of unilateral actions by the UN Security Council nor by participation in any political plots,” he said.

His comments were a response to a remark by US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggesting Washington and Moscow were discussing a post-Assad strategy in Syria.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said yesterday that government forces in Syria had used rape and other sexual violence against men, women and children during the uprising. The US-based group said it had recorded 20 incidents from interviews inside and outside Syria with eight victims, including four women, and more than 25 other people with knowledge of sexual abuse – including medical workers, former detainees, army defectors and women’s rights activists. “Sexual violence in detention is one of many horrific weapons in the Syrian government’s torture arsenal, and Syrian security forces regularly use it to humiliate and degrade detainees,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the group. – (Reuters)