9 Killed in Syria as UN Monitors Check Cease-fire

Posted April 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian activists say government forces killed at least nine people Monday in a flashpoint city, a day after international observers visited the region.

Activists say Syria's military opened fire on civilians in the city of Hama's Arbaeen neighborhood. They say dozens of people were wounded by the assault.

The latest deaths come as U.N. monitors try to solidify a tenuous cease-fire that has failed to end 13 months of conflict.

Neeraj Singh, a spokesman for the U.N.'s eight-member advance team in Syria, said the group will be joined by two additional observers. Observers were visiting a Damascus suburb on Monday.

Eduardo del Buey, a spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General, told VOA that the observer mission will be rapidly expanded.

“The deployment of the 30 observers is expected to be completed before the end of April,” he said. “The expeditious deployment of the rest of the military observers is a priority.”

Meanwhile, the European Union banned the sale to Syria of luxury goods and dual-use items that could be used for repression. The restrictions were adopted at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg Monday.

The extent of the luxury ban has yet to be defined but the aim is to deliver a symbolic blow against the posh lifestyle of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his British-born wife, Asma.

The dual-use goods could include anything from vehicles to fertilizers and other chemicals.

The United States announced Monday plans to impose technology sanctions on Syria and its ally, Iran.

Meanwhile, Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, told the 15-nation Security Council during an open debate on the Middle East that “the cessation of armed violence remains incomplete” in Syria.

“Too many lives have been lost, human rights violations are still perpetrated with impunity. It is our hope that the deployment of observers will help to stop the killing and consolidate the calm,” Pascoe said.

A spokeswoman for the exiled opposition Syrian National Council said Sunday the expanded observer mission is not enough to protect people from government attacks. Basma Kodmani called for at least 3,000 monitors to be sent to Syria quickly.

Attacks by Syrian government and rebel forces killed at least 17 people across the country Sunday, including five soldiers who died when a roadside bomb struck their armored personnel carrier.

Two U.N. observers set up a base in the devastated flashpoint city of Homs Sunday after spending the night there. Rami Abdul-Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the continued presence of observers in Homs is deterring attacks by government forces.

The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in the Syrian government's 13-month crackdown on dissent, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.