Voice of America
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Syrian rights activists say violence across the country Wednesday has killed at least 53 people, after the head of a United Nations monitoring mission says his team is committed to staying in the war-torn country.
Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told VOA that he fears Syria will become “the new Somalia or the new Afghanistan.”
The Observatory has a network of contacts in Syria including rebels, activists and state security members. Abdelrahman said at least 28 Syrian soldiers, one army defector and 24 civilians and rebels died Wednesday.
He said clashes, shelling and bombings killed Syrians from north of Aleppo, to the southern city of Daraa, to the eastern city of Deir Ezzor and the northwestern province of Latakia. Abdelrahman also reported deaths from attacks in Hama, Idlib and Damascus provinces.
The latest violence comes as the International Committee of the Red Cross said it is preparing to evacuate wounded people and trapped civilians from the city of Homs. The ICRC said Wednesday both sides agreed to its request for a temporary halt in fighting so the ICRC can carry out the evacuations and bring in much-needed medical supplies.
On Tuesday, the head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria said the “suffering of the Syrian people” is getting worse and that questions about canceling the monitoring mission are premature.
“I remain committed with the mission in the positions we are currently in. We're not going anywhere.”
Major General Robert Mood told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that attackers have targeted his 300-strong unarmed observer team several times in the last few weeks. He says at least nine U.N. vehicles have been damaged.
Mood and U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said the mission in Syria was suspended on Saturday because of escalating violence, but team members did not leave the country. The decision was the clearest sign yet that a peace plan brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan has collapsed.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama said in Los Cabos, Mexico, on Tuesday that Russia and China have “not signed on” to any plan for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's removal from power, but that both countries' leaders recognize the dangers of an all-out civil war.
Mr. Obama said the Syrian leader has lost all legitimacy and that it is impossible to conceive of any solution to the violence that leaves him in power. The U.S. president acknowledged the lack of any breakthrough with the leaders of Russia or China, despite intensive talks.
Moscow and Beijing are long-time allies of Syria and have shielded Mr. Assad from U.N. sanctions sought by Western and Arab powers who oppose his nearly 12-year autocratic rule.
The Security Council agreed to send the observer mission to Syria in April to monitor government and rebel compliance with a U.N.-backed cease-fire agreement, but the truce never took hold. The observers' 90-day mandate expires in mid-July.