International peace envoy Kofi Annan has called for the rapid deployment of 300 ceasefire monitors in Syria, branding violence levels “unacceptable” 12 days into a promised truce.
UN Security Council powers called on the UN to speed up the deployment of monitors, but a top UN official said it would take at least a month to get the first 100 in place.
Ban’s comments in New York came a day after nearly 60 people were killed across the country in violence that continued on Tuesday with a car bomb in the Marjeh district of Damascus that injured three.
Syrian state television blamed “terrorists,” the government term for rebels, for the blast.
It came as UN observers returned to the city of Hama’s Arbaeen neighborhood, which activists said suffered a “massacre” on Monday at the hands of regime troops.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 31 civilians were killed in the flash point central city, out of a total of 59 people, including five soldiers, killed in violence nationwide.
UN-Arab League envoy Annan said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has still not fulfilled a promise to end violence and that the situation was “bleak” and “unacceptable.”
The special envoy said he was “particularly alarmed” at reports that government forces had entered Hama after a visit by UN monitors and killed “a significant” number of people.
“If confirmed, this is totally unacceptable and reprehensible,” he told the UN Security Council.
The Syrian League for Human Rights said that among those killed in Hama on Monday were nine activists who were “summarily executed” by government forces a day after they met UN observers in the city.
Video footage posted online by activists showed a street in Hama’s Arbaeen neighborhood with large pools of blood and women weeping.
The council was told there are now 11 UN observers in place and the 30-strong advance party of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) is expected to be on the ground by the end of the week, but UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said it would take a month to get the first 100 of the 300-member full force into Syria.
“All council members underscored the need for more rapid deployment of observers,” US ambassador Susan Rice told reporters.
“We simply urged them to maybe look for some unorthodox ways to maybe expedite the process,” Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday gave the go-ahead for the deployment of an enlarged team of 300 ceasefire monitors from next week, despite skepticism over the mission.
Ban insisted that the government ensure the protection of the unarmed observers and allow them to travel freely throughout the country.
Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi acknowledged the truce remained “extremely fragile” and urged the Syrian government to fully implement its end of the deal.
“This means withdrawal of all heavy armory from population centers,” he told UN broadcaster UNTV. “They are claiming that this has happened. Satellite imagery, however, and credible reports show that this has not fully happened, so this is unacceptable.”
Fawzi said UN observers on the ground had entered areas such as Hama and the battered city of Homs to the south and found that when they were there “the guns are silent,” but when they left “credible reports” indicated that the gunfire resumed.