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U.N. observers set to arrive in Syria on Sunday

April 15, 2012 |  8:52 am

Shelling in Syria

BEIRUT -- Six United Nations observers were scheduled to arrive in the capital of Syria by Sunday evening to begin monitoring a cease-fire and six-point peace plan designed to end violence in the country's 13-month uprising.

“Within the next few days, they will be augmented by up to 25 to 30 as soon as possible from missions in the region,” said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for the peace plan's driving force, U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan.

The six monitors will meet with Syrian authorities Monday morning to agree on areas the team will visit, Fawzi said. "They will try to leave Damascus to other governorates as soon as possible," he said.

The monitors are coming ahead of a larger group, possibly up to 250, which could be authorized by Wednesday. 

But since Thursday, when the cease-fire was supposed to have begun, there have been questions of the Syrian government's commitment to the plan. Activists have reported security forces firing on protesters and troops and tanks still stationed inside cities and towns in violation of the truce terms. On Saturday, shelling resumed on the battered city of Homs.

In Al Bab, in the northern province of Aleppo, there were reports of an explosion at a police station followed by clashes between rebel fighters and government forces. But there were conflicting reports of what exactly happened and which side may have attacked first.

Heavy shelling on Homs continued Sunday, where the anti-government Local Coordination Committees reported eight people killed.

"There are people and observers coming to visit, but the regime doesn't care," said Yazan, an activist in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood who requested that his full name not be given for safety reasons. "They will keep pounding the city until the observers come to Homs, then they will stop."

Yazan likened this U.N. mission to the failed Arab League mission several months ago, which he described as "talks only and a waste of time."

The regime is "often times shelling empty areas and buildings, just to send a message," he said. "As if they want to affirm Homs destruction and want to make it a lesson to the rest of the cities."

In a statement, the Local Coordination Committees seemed more optimistic, though guardedly so.

The Security Council resolution approving the observer meeting, "while late, may in the context of an international role contribute to reducing the bloodshed of Syrian civilians," the statement read. "We ... stress the need to see Mr. Kofi Annan's plan through to the end, despite our doubts that the regime has the will or capability to implement all six points." 

The statement from the group stressed the need for a timetable for implementing the plan.

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-- Rima Marrouch

Photo: This image from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network shows smoke rising from buildings after purported shelling in Homs. Credit: Shaam News Network / Associated Press

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