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Syrians on both sides sour on U.N. monitors [Video]

May 8, 2012 | 11:49 am

AMMAN, Jordan -- As the death toll has continued to tick upward in the ongoing violence between Syrian government forces and opposition groups, some  residents have grown impatient with the United Nations monitors sent to bear witness to its peace plan.

The U.N. monitors began arriving last month and were greeted joyfully in some towns at first, as hopes surged that the violence would abate with the world watching. Early in the mission, U.N. observers were videotaped walking hand-in-hand with Free Syrian Army rebels in Rastan.

Another video posted to YouTube, seen above, purports to show a U.N. observer trying to protect someone from gunfire. In the video, said to be shot in Homs 2 1/2 weeks ago, a blue-helmeted observer ushers someone off the street as shots are heard.

"Look, Kofi Annan, look!" someone screams at the end of the clip.  

The U.N. monitors are supposed to watch how Syria hews to a six-point peace plan brokered by Annan, a U.N. and Arab League special envoy. Three hundred monitors ultimately will be sent to the country. Annan has argued that even the smaller set of roughly 50 monitors now in Syria has had a calming effect.

But the continued violence has soured many Syrians on the monitors, according to activists and amateur videos streaming from the conflict.

“What a scandal,” one person scoffs from behind the camera in one video uploaded to YouTube, said to be taken April 25. The camera pans over white U.N. vehicles near army tanks. “It’s a conspiracy against the Syrian people. They came to check the withdrawal of tanks -- and now they are with the tanks.”

Syrians already were used to and skeptical of observers from an earlier Arab League mission that got no results, said a Douma activist known as Omar Hamza, reached via Skype.

"But these observers are even worse," he said. "When they visit a town or an area, shortly after it is stormed, people are detained, and army opens fire. People started praying that the observers don’t visit their area."

Some activists have mocked the U.N. trips as "flying visits" because of their short stops. Activist Hasan Abu Zaid told Al Jazeera that the observers usually stayed only half an hour, an hour at the most.

It isn't just the rebels who are skeptical: Addounia TV, a pro-government station, aired video of people from pro-government areas of Homs complaining that the observers refused to speak to them or step down from their car.

The U.N. mission has been derided as merely a chance to gain time -- and not just for President Bashar Assad and his regime, who critics say are continuing to crush the opposition. 

"The Free Syrian Army is using this time to train and regroup," said Abu Obeida, a former Free Syrian Army fighter who was forced to leave Syria.

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-- Rima Marrouch in Amman and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

 

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