More than 60 killed in Syria despite presence of U.N. monitors


More than 60 people were killed nationwide in Syria on Sunday, including at least 34 people in central Hama province, which came under heavy army shelling for hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

“Thirty-four people were killed under shelling and gunfire in Souran village while it was being raided,” the Britain-based watchdog said, revising up an earlier toll of 16 people killed, including three children.

The bloody violence continues despite the existence of a U.N. mission, whose members were targeted hours earlier with a rocket-propelled grenade in the town of Douma, north of Damascus.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory said “there is no evidence that there were any clashes taking place” in the village of Souran before the deadly shelling took place.

The Syrian Revolution Commission reported that a total of 28 people were killed across the country as deadly violence continued despite the existence of a U.N. observer mission tasked to watch a non-existent ceasefire.

Early on Sunday, a rocket-propelled grenade landed near a team of observers visiting the town of Douma, a northern suburb of Damascus, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

The head of a Syria ceasefire monitoring mission, Major General Robert Mood, was stopped in a car at an army checkpoint when the bomb detonated in a nearby alleyway.

While there were no reports of casualties, it was an indication of the mounting dangers posed across the country from clashes between Syrian regime troops and armed rebel fighters, which had been witnessed in Douma before the bomb exploded.

Mood and U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous were among the team of observers, the journalist added.

After the observers left the area, a civilian was shot dead in Douma by a sniper, local monitors reported.

The streets of Douma were deserted, and most of its shops were closed, according to AFP. Posters had been torn off the walls and rubbish containers overturned.

Pro- and anti-regime slogans filled the walls of what appeared to be a ghost town. “Douma will not kneel except before God,” read one slogan, while another read “Assad’s soldiers were here.”

“When the observers leave, the armed men will come back to cause trouble,” one soldier told reporters at the scene, in a reference to rebels who have taken up arms over the course of the anti-regime revolt.

In Basra al-Sham city of southern Daraa province, an army defector was killed in an overnight ambush by regime forces, the Observatory said.

In Jisr al-Shughur in northwest Idlib, a flashpoint of unrest, armed men assassinated a Baath party official, the monitor said, amid a marked increase of assassinations targeting people associated with the regime.

“There is definitely an increase in assassinations targeting people associated with the regime, be they officials or pro-regime businessmen,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP news agency by telephone.

The monitoring group also said that fresh demonstrations took place in several areas of northwest Idlib and in Hama calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

In Daraa province, demonstrations were also held calling for the release of activist and citizen journalist Mohammed al-Hariri, who according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been sentenced to death for “high treason.”

The latest demonstrations took place after fierce fighting between regime troops and armed rebels rocked parts of the Syrian capital Damascus overnight, the Observatory said.

“Violent clashes broke out between rebel fighters and regime troops at a checkpoint in Kafr Sousa district,” it added.

The Local Coordination Committees, an anti-regime network of activists on the ground in Syria, said that in the wake of the fighting, Kafr Sousa in the south of the capital saw the “arrival of huge reinforcements” of regime troops.

Clashes also broke out in others parts of southern Damascus, the Observatory said, adding that gunfire had during the night echoed across the city Centre.

On Saturday, 23 people were killed in violence across Syria, the Observatory said.

More than 12,000 people, the majority of them civilians, have died in Syria since an anti-regime revolt broke out in March 2011, according to the monitoring group.