World & Nation

Syria violence continues despite presence of chief monitor

BEIRUT — Even with the commander of the United Nations monitoring mission in place in Syria, explosions and attacks continued Monday as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and opposition groups appeared no closer to a cease-fire after 13 months of unrest.

In the northern city of Idlib, two early-morning car bombings killed at least eight people and injured more than 100, according to state media and activists. The explosions targeted the air force security and other military security buildings in the southern part of the city dominated by government buildings.

State media put the death toll at eight, though activists said 20 people, both civilians and security officers, were killed.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attacks. State media blamed them on terrorist groups, the blanket term the government has used to describe the opposition since the uprising against Assad began more than a year ago. But many activists blamed the government.

The bombings occurred in a heavily guarded area called Security Square, where it would have been difficult for anyone to get through, said activist Alaa Al-Deen Al-Yusuf.

They came a day after the commander of the United Nations monitoring mission, Maj. Gen. Robert Mood of Norway, arrived in Syria. An advance team of U.N. observers already in Syria is expected to grow to a full force of 300.

But as the cease-fire stipulated in a peace plan has failed to take hold, some have questioned whether the monitors can help bring Syria back from the brink of civil war.

“We will be only 300, but we can make a difference,” Mood told reporters in Damascus, the capital. “Thirty unarmed observers, 300 unarmed observers, even 1,000 unarmed observers cannot solve all the problems.”

In Idlib, the explosions occurred about 6:30 a.m., soon after morning prayers, said one resident who lives in the Shimali neighborhood, in the northern part of the city.

“We are very far from the explosion and we still heard it,” she said.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said an armed group attacked the Central Bank of Syria in Damascus with a rocket-propelled grenade, causing minor damage to the building. Elsewhere in the capital, a group attacked a rescue patrol near a hospital with a rocket-propelled grenade, injuring four policemen, according to the news agency.

The Local Coordination Committees, an opposition network, said in a statement that the attacks Monday and on previous days were orchestrated by the government to divert attention from its obligation to comply with the U.N.'s six-point peace plan. The plan requires the government to cease attacks on the opposition and withdraw its tanks and heavy weapons from cities and towns, which has not happened.

Also Monday, the Lebanese Interior Ministry said a man was shot in the shoulder by Syrian security forces as he and a group of friends were skiing on Mt. Hermon. The man was taken to a nearby hospital and his friends were handed over to Lebanese army intelligence, though the ministry did not explain whether they were under investigation.

Must-read stories from the L.A. Times

Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.