UN observer mission now target of violence in Syria
Damascus, May 17 (Xinhua-ANI): The UN observer mission in conflict-torn Syria has become a target of violence, with exploding vehicles near the city of Hama Tuesday.
UN officials said Wednesday that a group of UN military observers who stayed overnight in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun due to the explosion have returned to their team site.
"None of the observers were injured or hurt, they stayed in the area overnight and they were able, this morning, to leave and go back to their headquarters in Hama," the spokesperson for the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) Hassan Siklawi said.
Head of the UN observers in Syria Maj. Gen. Robert Mood expressed gratitude to the Syrian government for facilitating the return of the observers and renewed calls for halting violence in the country in order to make his mission a success.
The UN convoy of four vehicles was struck by a blast caused by an improvised explosive device in the Khan Sheikhoun area, near Syria's central province of Hama, shortly after 2 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) on Tuesday.
Three UN vehicles were damaged, but no personnel was injured, said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman of the UN-Arab League joint envoy Kofi Annan, adding that the mission has sent a patrol team to the area to extract those observers.
Local media also reported earlier that an explosive device ripped through a UN convoy, injuring two observers and damaging two vehicles. The Syrian army has intervened, clashed with armed groups there and managed to move the observers to a safe zone.
Mood said Tuesday that the number of UN military observers has exceeded 200, stressing that the observers are tracking and documenting all violations of the cease-fire agreement brokered by Annan.
He said the observers are pinpointing all violations and authenticating them, adding that they would submit a weekly report to the UN headquarters.
Mood also said the observers are specifically dealing with the issue of violence and the way it's done on the ground.
While efforts are being exerted to find a political and peaceful solution to the 14-month-old unrest in Syria, clashes and killings still continue with no end in sight.
A three-floor building in the coastal city of Banias collapsed Tuesday when an explosive device under preparation by "terrorists" inside the building exploded.
Meanwhile, two law-enforcement personnel, including an officer, were killed after an "armed terrorist group" detonated two explosive charges and opened fire at their patrol in southern Daraa province.
In central Homs province, an armed terrorist group assassinated a brigadier general near Shinshar crossing on the Homs-Damascus highway on the same day.
The recent violence in Syria not only undermines the work of the UN observers, but also endangers their safety.
The UNSMIS, authorized by the UN Security Council last month, is composed of up to 300 unarmed military observers that are deployed for an initial period of 90 days. Their task is to monitor the cessation of armed violence and support the implementation of Annan's six-point peace plan.
The cease-fire, which went into effect on April 12, has been shaky from the very beginning as mutual mistrust between the government and the opposition has overwhelmed the endeavors to solve the crisis politically. (Xinhua-ANI)
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