Assad’s forces kill 80 nationwide despite presence of U.N. monitors

The words on the boy’s body read, “Behind you behind you, for long time.” Regime forces continue to exercise violence against civilians despite the existence of U.N. monitors. (Reuters)

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 80 people nationwide on Monday, most of them in the city of Hama, local monitors reported, despite the presence of a team of U.N observers.

Regime forces pounded the Hama neighborhoods of Masha’a Alarba’een and Alarba’een, despite U.N. observers’ presence in the city, according to Local Coordination Committees.

Activists said the bombing in Hama intensified following the visit by U.N. monitors during which thousands of people took the streets in mass protest against the regime.

“The U.N. observer mission visited the neighborhood yesterday and a large protest came out to welcome them despite the military and security snipers present on the building in front of the U.N. observers. As soon as the U.N. observer mission left the neighborhood the security forces began threatening us in the neighborhood that they would take ‘revenge.’ They opened fire onto civilians injuring many,” activist Mosaab Abo Jehad told right group Avaaz.

Elsewhere in the country, Syrian forces shelled several neighborhoods in Homs, Al Arabiya television reported citing Syrian activists. The forces also launched a wide scale attack on al-Bukamal early Monday, killing four people, the Syrian Shaam News Network reported.

The attacks come one day after the violent military operations carried out by
the government forces in the Damascus suburb of Duma and in Deraa on Sunday, which killed at least 22 people, according to the Syrian General Revolution Commission.

Internet video footage that activists said was filmed in Duma on Sunday showed grey smoke rising from buildings and the sound of heavy gunfire in the background. One clip showed soldiers in helmets and bullet-proof vests next to a tank.

The official news agency SANA made no mention of fighting in Duma but said that at least one officer was killed by a bomb that struck a convoy of army officers and cadets in the northern province of Aleppo. Another bomb targeted a freight train transporting flour in Idlib province, it said.

Shaam reported two strong explosions in al-Khaldeya neighborhood on Sunday, despite the presence of the U.N. peace monitors.

A small group of unarmed observers has been operating in Syria for a week, overseeing a 10-day-old truce agreement that has curbed some of the violence but failed to bring a complete halt to 13 months of bloodshed.

In Damascus, Syrian government forces shot at protesters in Nahr Aysha; while two massive demonstrations went out in Kafr Soussa from al-Fateh and Bilal al-Habashy mosques on Sunday night. The two protests later merged together, Al Arabiya reported, citing Syrian activists.

On Sunday a group of monitors visited the central city of Hama and nearby town of Rastan. Internet video footage which activists said was filmed in Rastan showed observers walking through the town accompanied by rebel fighters.
Hama, where Assad’s father crushed an armed Islamist uprising 30 years ago, killing many thousands of people, has been quieter since the ceasefire took effect, according to a local activist who identified himself as Musab.

“We don’t see the tanks any more, they just hide them in government installations,” he told Reuters. “But the troops are still around. The truce has an effect but not to the extent that we can demonstrate freely.”

The U.N. Security Council agreed on Saturday to increase the mission to a 300-strong observer team, part of international envoy Kofi Annan’s plan to halt the killing and launch a political dialogue between President Bashar al-Assad and opponents seeking his downfall.

Annan said the council’s decision was a “pivotal moment in the stabilization of the country” after more than a year of turmoil in which more than 9,000 people have been killed.

In a statement, the former U.N. secretary-general called on both Syrian government forces and opposition fighters to put down their weapons and consolidate the ceasefire accord, according to Reuters.

Assad’s adversaries say his forces have continued shelling opposition strongholds in violation of the truce, while authorities say “terrorist armed groups” have kept up a campaign of bombings against government targets.

Western and Arab ministers meeting in Paris last week described the observer mission as a “last chance” for peace in the major Arab country. The United States said that if Damascus did not permit an adequate monitoring process, the Security Council should work towards imposing sanctions on Syria.

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