Syria lets UN monitors into Homs as shelling stops

Activists claim shelling ceased only to make it look as if gov't was abiding by truce; UNSC to vote on increasing monitors.

By REUTERS
April 21, 2012 15:13
1 minute read.
UN monitors arrive in Damascus

UN monitors arrive in Damascus 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Khaled al- Hariri )

BEIRUT - Syrian authorities allowed a team of United Nations ceasefire monitors to enter the battered city of Homs on Saturday after resident opposition activists said shelling and gunfire stopped for the first time in weeks.

"A team of observers have been sent to Homs and met the governor," UN spokesman Khaled al-Masri said. "They are now visiting districts of the city."

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But activists in Homs said that the shelling ceased only to make it look as if the government was abiding by a truce, mediated by international Peace Envoy Kofi Annan. They said that shelling would resume as soon as the monitors left.

"It is very clear that the Syrian government can stop the violence whenever it wants at anytime in the country," Walid al-Fares, an opposition activist living in Homs told Reuters.

On Friday, 10 people were killed in Syria's third largest city and epicenter of a year-old revolt against President Bashar Assad, after heavy bombardment from government forces.

Syrian authorities say they are fighting "armed terrorist" groups and that they are still allowed to respond to acts of aggression to maintain security despite having agreed to a ceasefire.

The advance team of eight UN observers had been denied permission by the Syrian authorities to go to Homs last week - purportedly for security reasons.

On Thursday, Syria and the United Nations signed an agreement setting out the working conditions of ceasefire observers. The agreement stipulates "unfettered access" and freedom for monitors to travel and contact people.

The UN Security Council is due to vote on a draft resolution on Saturday to authorize the deployment to Syria of up to 300 unarmed military observers.

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