U.N. approves monitors for Syria as violence resumes
BEIRUT — As the cease-fire in Syria appeared to be unraveling, the U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved sending as many as 30 unarmed monitors to try to help maintain the fragile truce.
Activists reported almost 30 deaths across Syria on a day when the international community sent a rare message of unity that the violence must come to an end. The bloodshed has been intensifying as rebels have increasingly taken up arms in the face of a yearlong crackdown by the government of President Bashar Assad.
After a brief lull since the cease-fire went into effect Thursday, shelling resumed in the battered city of Homs, which has been under siege for more than two months, according to videos and activist accounts.
In the northern city of Aleppo, at least four people in a funeral procession that turned into a protest were shot and killed. Several people were wounded. Like Damascus, the capital, Aleppo hasn’t publicly opposed Assad as strongly as much of the rest of the country. Video from the city’s Ithaha neighborhood showed people running in the streets with the sound of heavy machine-gun fire in the background.
The U.N. resolution approved Saturday also condemned “widespread violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, as well as any human rights abuses by armed groups.”
The resolution was stalled Friday asRussia’sambassador objected to a provision that called for the Syrian government to be held accountable for human rights violations, among other sticking points, officials said. Russia is a longtime ally of the Syrian regime and had, with China, vetoed U.N. resolutions on the Syrian crisis.
The ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Saturday that he was satisfied with the resolution after it had undergone substantive changes to be more balanced and reflect the reality in Syria. The monitors will include one Russian officer, he said.
The resolution came at a time when one of the main components of special envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan has yet to be adhered to: withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from cities and towns.
Soon after the resolution passed, Annan met withU.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and both said they were committed to deploying the advance team as quickly as possible.
Ban said he would try to make concrete proposals by Wednesday for the official observer mission.
The advance team, which will be followed by about 250 monitors, is to help ensure that Assad and rebel fighters abide by the terms of the cease-fire and the rest of the six-point plan. The resolution called on the government to ensure unimpeded and immediate access and unobstructed communication with people throughout Syria.
Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari reiterated his country’s commitment to Annan’s plan but took the opportunity to put the blame for the continued violence elsewhere.
“Ever since Damascus has accepted Annan’s plan, terrorist operations have escalated,” he said, charging that since the cease-fire began, there have been 50 violations by the opposition, including the killing of civilians, soldiers and law enforcement officials.
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