A team of United Nations monitors came under attack Tuesday in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, according to the U.N. and opposition activists. Amateur video shows white U.N. vehicles swathed in smoke after a loud bang was heard, sending people scattering.
A U.N. spokesman said a convoy of four vehicles was struck by an explosion from an improvised explosive device in the early afternoon, damaging three of the vehicles. None of the U.N. personnel was injured. A team had been sent to extract the observers, the spokesman said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group based in Britain, reported that regime forces fired at the U.N. vehicle in the wake of a funeral procession. Activists claimed that 20 mourners were killed. The Times could not independently verify their claims.
The official Syrian Arab News Agency had no immediate reports about violence in Khan Sheikhoun, though it reported attacks elsewhere from "terrorists," the government's usual term for the armed rebels.
The attack right in front of U.N. monitors is a stark sign of the faltering ceasefire. Halting the shooting was part of a six-point peace plan brokered by U.N. and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan that has so far failed to stop the bloodshed in Syria, more than a year into its "Arab Spring" uprising.
Though Annan has praised the observers for having a "calming effect," the continued violence has soured some Syrians on the U.N. team. Some dissidents have argued that the monitors spend too little time in each area and seem only to precipitate attacks.
Syrian dissidents say this is only the latest incident in which U.N. monitors have come under fire. Activists in the town of Quseir in Homs province said the U.N. observers who were approaching the town Sunday to meet with Free Syrian Army leaders retreated after snipers fired toward them.
— Emily Alpert in Los Angeles, Rima Marrouch in Amman and Times staff