Wednesday, June 13, 2012

U.N. Observers Blocked by Pro-Government Crowds

Following repeated efforts, UN observers were unable to reach the Syrian town of al-Haffeh yesterday as angry crowds surrounded their vehicles, stopping them from proceeding any further, after which they were shot at as they departed.

“The crowd, who appeared to be residents of the area, hurled stones and metal rods at the UN vehicles. The UN observers turned back,” the spokesperson for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), Sausan Ghosheh, said today. “As they were leaving the area, three vehicles heading towards Idlib were fired upon – the source of fire is still unclear,” she added in a statement, noting that observers had returned safely to their bases. 

UNSMIS staff members have been trying to reach al-Haffeh since June 7, but have been impeded by the ongoing violence in the area. The city is reportedly besieged, with heavy fighting going on.  “UNSMIS calls on the parties to grant the UN observers immediate and unfettered access to conflict zones,” Ms. Ghosheh said.

On Monday, UNSMIS observers reported heavy fighting in Rastan and Talbiseh, north of the city of Homs, with the use of artillery and mortar shelling, as well as firing from helicopters, machine guns and smaller arms.

The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago. UNSMIS observers have been charged with monitoring the cessation of violence in Syria, as well as monitoring and supporting the full implementation of a six-point peace plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the Arab League for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan. The peace plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.

(Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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