Sun, Jun 17, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Syrian troops shell Damascus suburbs, 12 reported killed

AP, BEIRUT

Syrian government troops shelled suburbs of the capital Damascus, killing at least 12 people in a stepped-up regime offensive on rebel areas around the country, activists said yesterday.

Most of the deaths occurred overnight in the restive suburb of Douma, where activists said regime forces fired mortars that struck a residential building, killing eight people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to “intervene immediately.”

In a statement, the Observatory said more than 1,000 families, including women and children, were trapped in embattled districts amid worsening humanitarian conditions and it called for the evacuation and protection of the wounded.

State-run news agency SANA said troops stormed hideouts of armed groups in Douma and killed and wounded a number of “terrorists.”

It also said troops foiled an overnight infiltration attempt by armed groups from Lebanon into Syria and wounded and killed a number of terrorists.

UN observers deployed in Syria to monitor the ceasefire, which never really took hold, have not been to Douma in more than a week.

“But anyway, all they can do is record what they see, they cannot help,” Saeed said.

There are nearly 300 monitors currently in Syria to follow up on a peace plan brokered by special international envoy Kofi Annan, which now seems to be disintegrating.

The regime and the opposition have ignored the ceasefire, which was supposed to go into effect on April 12, and the recent escalation is raising questions about how effective the unarmed monitors can be in a conflict that is looking more and more like a civil war.

The head of the UN observers, Major General Robert Mood, said on Friday that a spike in bloodshed is derailing the mission.

“Violence over the past 10 days has been intensifying willingly by both the parties, with losses on both sides and significant risks to our observers,” he told reporters in the Syrian capital.

Mood said there was a concern among the states that provide the observers that the risk is approaching an unacceptable level — suggesting the violence could prompt the observers to pull out of the country at some point.

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