Monitors: Syria forces pound Homs ahead of UN team’s arrival
Activist says bombing of Khaldiyeh neighborhood fiercest since truce went into force; UN chief says million people displaced in Syria
Syrian regime forces heavily shelled the rebel Khaldiyeh neighborhood of the central city of Homs on Sunday, hours before the arrival of an advance team of UN military observers, monitors said.
“The bombardment of Khaldiyeh intensified this morning with an average of three shells a minute,” the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP.
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He added that it was the fiercest shelling of Homs since a UN-backed ceasefire went into force at dawn on Thursday.
The United Nations is expected to send an advance team of observers to Syria on Sunday to start monitoring a shaky ceasefire, even as a surge in violence on the ground threatened to derail international efforts to end more than a year of bloodshed.
Russia and China joined the rest of the Security Council to authorize the deployment of up to 30 unarmed observers in the first resolution on Syria the 15-nation council managed to approve unanimously since the uprising erupted in March 2011.
A spokesman for international mediator Kofi Annan said on Saturday an advance team of six monitors would arrive in Syria within 24 hours and deploy within 36 hours, with more to follow within days.
„I will make sure that this advance observer mission will be dispatched as soon as possible and try to make concrete proposals by the 18th of April for an official observer mission,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told United Nations radio separately in Geneva.
As Security Council members gathered to vote, fighting raged on inside Syria, with activists saying at least six people were killed in various incidents on Saturday.
In the opposition stronghold of Homs, activists reported the first shelling by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad since the UN and Arab League brokered ceasefire officially took effect three days ago.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four people were killed during a funeral march in Aleppo, one by shelling in Homs and a sixth succumbed to wounds inflicted by torture in the central town of Rastan, straddling the Damascus-Aleppo road.
United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that at least a million people have been displaced inside Syria during a 13-month crackdown on dissent.
“We are very much concerned that at least one million people have been displaced inside Syria and there are still many Syrian refugees in neighboring countries,” said the secretary general in comments issued by the UN following his meeting with peace envoy Annan in Geneva.
Ban said UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos will host a meeting in the Swiss city next Friday to begin the task of getting aid to Syria’s needy.
“I hope that (it) will be able to mobilize the necessary humanitarian resources so that all needy people will be able to get the necessary humanitarian assistance,” he said.
Reuters, AFP contributed to the report