Fighting Continues as UN Monitoring Chief Tours Syria

Posted April 28th, 2012 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The Syrian government and opposition activists have traded accusations of violence as U.N. monitors spread out across the country to assess compliance with a fragile cease-fire.

One U.N. team visited the city of Homs on Saturday as Norwegian Major General Robert Mood was headed to the capital, Damascus, to take charge of the mission.

About a dozen U.N. observers are on the ground in Syria, despite efforts to boost their presence to the 300-strong team approved by the U.N. Security Council.

Clashes between government troops and rebel soldiers continued in the Latakia region and the outskirts of Damascus on Saturday amid reports of fresh desertions to the rebel side. At least 10 people were reportedly killed.

Syria's official state news agency SANA said that a loyalist military unit thwarted an attempt by armed rebels “trying to infiltrate from the sea” in Latakia.

In neighboring Lebanon, the country's navy intercepted a ship that reportedly was carrying weapons to Syrian rebels from Libya. The Liberian-flagged vessel traveling to the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli. Three shipping containers were removed from the ship which, official said, contained shells, rockets, grenade launchers and other matériel.

The Syrian government has complained repeatedly that weapons are being smuggled from neighboring countries to help the rebels. The rebels say that Syrian allies Iran and Russia have been arming the Syrian military.

Russia on Saturday condemned what it called barbaric attacks in Syria and urged forces inside and outside of the country to rebuff what it called “terrorists.”

The Syrian press accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of encouraging rebel attacks. The Associated Press said the Tishrin newspaper accused the U.N. chief of heaping his criticism on the government and not on rebel forces.

During a news conference in India on Friday, the U.N. chief said he was “gravely alarmed” over Syria's rising death toll in spite of the government's repeated commitments to end violence.

The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria's crackdown on the uprising. Activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.