U.N. observers in Syria blocked from site of alleged massacre
TRIPOLI, Lebanon -- United Nations officials said a team of the world body's observers in Syria was blocked and even shot at Thursday in its efforts to reach the site of an alleged massacre near the central city of Hama.
Opposition activists have alleged that dozens of civilians, including women and children, were killed in the village of Mazraat al-Qubeir. Opposition advocates blamed Syrian government security forces. Syrian authorities denied any responsibility.
U.N. observers said they headed for the scene early Thursday but were turned away. In a statement, the observer mission said both the Syrian military and civilians were impeding access at different points. The observers also said they were told they may be "at risk" if they entered the village.
Elaborating on their statement Thursday before the U.N. General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the monitors "were shot at with small arms" while trying to reach the village.
The U.N. team is still trying to reach the site, said the statement by Maj. Gen. Robert Mood of Norway, head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria.
The U.N. mission "is concerned about the restriction imposed on its movement as it will impede our ability to monitor, observe and report," the general said.
Later Thursday, U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan is expected to brief the Security Council about the status of his six-point peace plan, widely violated by both sides.
The reported massacre in the province of Hama comes less than two weeks after more than 100 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the town of Houla. That incident drew worldwide condemnation of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syrian officials blamed the Houla killings on "armed groups" fighting with the opposition.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: U.N. observers are seen at the Dama Rose Hotel in Damascus, Syria, on Thursday ahead of their daily patrols of restive cities. Credit: Youssef Badawi / EPA