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Syria bomb attacks cast doubt on future of observer mission: U.N. chief

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Bomb attacks like the one near a U.N. convoy in Syria on Wednesday cast doubt on the future of the ceasefire monitoring mission in the country, U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon said.

There was no immediate evidence that U.N. monitors in the convoy were the target of Wednesday’s attack, Ban said through a spokesman. But he expressed deep concern at the growing use of roadside and other improvised bombs across Syria.

“Such incidents, in addition to the continued violence reported in many cities in Syria, call into question the commitment of the parties to the cessation of violence and may have a direct impact on the future of the (U.N.) mission,” Ban said in a statement released by U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky.

The roadside blast at a military checkpoint near the protest city of Daraa injured 10 Syrian troops escorting U.N. observers, according to the statement.

“We have no evidence to believe that the explosion was intended to target the UNSMIS convoy; however, this incident demonstrates the difficult and challenging conditions under which our United Nations observers are operating,” said Ban.

“It also demonstrates the volatile and dangerous situation in which the Syrian people have been living for months.”

Meanwhile, troops pounded a rebel hideout near Damascus as renewed violence across Syria killed at least 15 people on Wednesday, Local coordination committees reported, according to Al Arabiya.

Residents of Douma, about 13 kilometers (eight miles) from the capital,
reported heavy shelling at dawn and bursts of gunfire in the town, where rebels have apparently sought refuge, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

In Damascus itself, clashes erupted briefly between a security patrol and rebels in the neighbourhood of Maisat, but there were no casualties, said the Britain-based Observatory.

In northwestern Idlib province, near the town of Jisr al-Shugur, one civilian was killed and three wounded by heavy machinegun fire from regime troops, and snipers killed an elderly man who was plowing his field.

“Jisr al-Shughur is near the Turkish border and has had a significant presence of rebels since the beginning of the revolt,” the Observatory’s Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

In the same province, in the village of Ahsem, an army checkpoint was targeted by an explosion followed by gunfire, the Observatory reported.
Clashes between regime forces and armed rebel groups in the village of Marata, in northwestern Idlib province, killed one soldier, said the watchdog.

Shots were also heard early Wednesday in several districts of the central city of Homs, an opposition stronghold where two civilians were killed, according to the watchdog.

Two security forces members were killed in eastern Deir Ezzor, the scene of heavy shooting and explosions, and a pro-regime gunman was

The U.N. says well over 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started in March last year.

Following the blast near the U.N. convoy, Ban reaffirmed that the U.N. mission and efforts of U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan “are possibly the only remaining chance to stabilize the country and avert a civil war,” said the statement.

U.N. officials say there are now 70 military observers and 43 civilian staff in the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), which was set up by the U.N. Security Council to monitor a shaky cessation of hostilities started on April 12.