Mon, August 20, 2012
World > Middle East > 2012 Syrian Situation

Battles rage on in Syria, UN observers start to leave

2012-08-20 17:13:23 GMT2012-08-21 01:13:23(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

DAMASCUS, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- The unabated violence continued in several Syrian cities Monday, as the UN observers have left their positions across Syria and finished relocating in the capital Damascus in order to leave the country after the expiry of their mandate.

The state-run SANA news agency said the competent authorities clashed Monday with armed group in Jbaili district of the eastern Deir al-Zour province, adding that a number of gunmen were killed in the conflict.

The agency said the army is keeping on striking the supply lines from the Turkish territories to the northern Aleppo province, adding that the troops have destroyed several roadblocks erected by the armed insurgents along the road connecting the city of Aleppo with its suburbs.

The troops have also clashed with militants at al-Hatab square in Aleppo, said SANA, adding that many of the armed men have been killed.

Also in Aleppo, SANA said the troops are proceeding with purging the Said al-Dawla district of armed insurgents and have inflicted a heavy toll on them.

In the central al-Salamieh town, a booby-trapped minibus was detonated Monday by a remote control near a shopping mall, causing damage to nearby buildings and injuring a number of civilians, said SANA.

On the opposition side, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported clashes Monday in a number of suburbs around Damascus.

It said a civilian from the Saqba suburb died of wounds he sustained two days ago, and a rebel fighter was killed by an ambush set up in the resort town of al-Zabadani. It also reported the discovery of two civilian corpses in the sprawling Douma suburb.

It said nine civilians and three rebel fighters have been killed so far by the government forces' bombardment on the Mu' adamiet al-Sham suburb, and several others have been wounded and buildings destroyed. It is also reported that a hospital in the area has been hit by several rockets.

The observatory said clashes in the area between Mu'adamiet al- Sham and Darayya suburbs led to the destruction of several heavy military vehicles, adding that no less than five soldiers were killed.

Ten unidentified bodies were found in Souq al-Tahrib area of Damascus' Qaboun neighborhood, which was rocked by two explosions Monday morning, with no casualties reported, the observatory said.

Clashes also occurred at dawn Monday in the Tadamun neighborhood of Damascus, in which one soldier was killed, said the observatory.

The observatory also reported clashes between rebels and government forces in the southern province of Daraa, adding that the government forces used mortars in the confrontation.

A rebel fighter was killed in Daraa, it said, adding that dozens of others were wounded as a result of the government forces ' bombardment on the al-Lihat area, which is considered as an important rebel stronghold.

Also in Daraa, the bodies of two civilians were found in the city of al-Hirak, and the observatory said they were summarily executed.

In the central Homs province, the town of Kafarlaha in the Houla area was violently bombarded by government forces and several houses have been reduced to rubbles, said the observatory.

In the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, the city of al- Boukamal was bombarded by government forces, it said, adding that the armed rebels took over the al-Urdi neighborhood in the restive province.

In Aleppo, violent clashes have been raging on near a military court and the ruling Baath party's local headquarters in the Jamiliya neighborhood, said the observatory, adding that the neighborhoods of Bustan al-Basha and Bustan al-Qasr have been bombarded by government forces.

The activists' accounts could not be independently checked.

While the violence on ground remain incessant, a total of 23 UN observers left Syria Monday for the Lebanese capital Beirut, while others left their positions in across Syria and headed to Damascus, preparing to leave in the next couple of days as their faltered mission officially expired Sunday.

The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) officially expired at midnight Sunday, when about six observers left Syria.

Earlier on Monday, 13 UN observers left Syria's central Homs province and another 14 left Deir al-Zour and arrived in Damascus to wait for arrangements for their departure.

Currently there is no presence of UN observers in any Syrian city except the capital.

The exact figure of the remaining observers is not accurately determined but they are estimated at around 90.

The United Nations decided Thursday not to extend the mandate of the UNSMIS, but to establish a civilian office in Damascus, which is seen by many experts as a good step that would guarantee a continued UN presence in Syria.

The UN Security Council also appointed on Thursday Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi as the new special envoy for Syria to replace Kofi Annan, who declared his resignation earlier this month due to the ongoing violence.

On Saturday, Babacar Gaye, head of the UNSMIS, said he was frustrated that the mission's main goal in achieving a full cessation of violence was not accomplished. However, he expressed comfort that the UN presence in Syria will not be stopped despite the expiry of his mission.

He said the United Nations will stay committed to ending violence and promoting dialogues among all parties.

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