UNITED NATIONS - The chief UN monitor for Syria told the Security Council on Tuesday that his military observers were repeatedly targeted by hostile crowds and close-range gunfire last week prior to his decision to suspend operations, UN diplomats said.

General Robert Mood of Norway told the 15-nation council behind closed doors that his 300-strong unarmed observer force was targeted with close-range gunfire or hostile crowds at least 10 times last week, UN diplomats present at the meeting told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Mood said that "indirect fire" incidents in which gunfire struck within 300-400 meters of observers occurred on a daily basis, envoys said. Last week nine vehicles of the observer mission, known as UNSMIS, were struck or damaged, they added.

Last week UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that after 15 months of fighting between government forces and what began as a peaceful opposition demanding reforms and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Syria was now in the throes of a full-scale civil war.

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