Gunfire, Shelling Leave 9 Dead in Syria

Posted May 16th, 2012 at 8:45 am (UTC-5)
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Activists say government shelling and gunfire killed at least nine people across Syria on Wednesday, most of them in the Idlib province region where violence erupted this week.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least five people were killed after security forces launched raids in the province's town of Khan Sheikhoun, where a mass shooting and the roadside bombing of a U.N. convoy occurred on Tuesday.

The London-based group says three more people were killed at a Daraa province refugee camp on Wednesday after government forces opened fire, and one person died in government shelling in the Homs region.

Meanwhile, a U.N. monitoring team was evacuated from Khan Sheikhoun on Wednesday, a day after a roadside bomb damaged vehicles in their convoy. The blast occurred shortly after Syrian security forces opened fire on mourners at a funeral in the town, killing at least 24 people, according to anti-government activists.

The monitoring team is part of a larger group of U.N. observers who have fanned out across Syria to assess compliance by the government and opposition to a fragile cease-fire brokered by international mediator Kofi Annan.

Farhan Haq, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told Alhurra television that continued violence indicates that both sides need to uphold provisions in Mr. Annan's framework for peace.

“They need to abide by that agreement. They need to cease all violence and we are going to do what we can to calm the situation down and press both sides to do just that.”

Middle East analyst Nadim Shehadi says incidents such as the blast near a U.N. convoy will eventually hamper the work of the monitors.

“It is certain that them being targeted will affect their mission. They will not be able to conduct their mission and they will be subject to more manipulation by the regime for security reasons.”

The United Nations says more than 9,000 people have been killed in violence related to the anti-government uprising that erupted more than a year ago. The Syrian government has blamed armed terrorist groups for much of the country's unrest.