UN suspends mission in Syria
(CNN) — The United Nations said Saturday it has suspended its monitoring mission in Syria due to intensifying violence, sending a strong indication that prospects for peace are failing.
“There has been an intensification of armed violence across Syria over the past 10 days,” said Gen. Robert Mood, who heads the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria.
“This escalation is limiting our ability to observe, verify, report as well as assist in local dialogue and stability projects — basically impeding our ability to carry out our mandate.”
The situation, Mood said, was too high risk for the unarmed monitors.
The Obama administration said Syria had reached a “critical juncture” and called on President Bashar al-Assad to uphold its commitment to the six-point peace plan brokered by special envoy Kofi Annan.
“At this critical juncture, we are consulting with our international partners regarding next steps toward a Syrian-led political transition,” said Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council.
“The sooner this transition takes place, the greater the chance of averting a lengthy and bloody sectarian civil war,” he said.
The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, however, blamed the uptick in violence on terrorist groups.
“The armed groups also disregarded Annan’s plan and the initial agreement between the United Nations and the Syrian government, aided by Arab and international powers that are still providing the terrorists with up-to-date weapons and communication devices that help them in committing their crimes and sticking to their defiance of the U.N. plan,” the ministry said, according to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency.
In the wake of the U.N. announcement, an opposition group reported fresh bloodshed in the Damascus suburb of Saqba. At least 13 people died, including nine who were stabbed to death, the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria said. A 6-year-old child was among the stabbing victims.
The group also reported relentless attacks by government forces that terrorized cities and towns across Syria.
At least 70 people were killed Saturday, the LCC said. Most were in the Damascus suburbs.
CNN could not independently verify reports of casualties because of restricted access in the country.
The Syrian government also said 27 soldiers and police were buried Saturday, according to the state news agency.
The news agency also announced that Syrian forces had killed Walid Ahmed Aish, a member of the Nusra Front who the Syrians said orchestrated recent car bombings in Damascus. The Syrian government says the Nusra Front has ties to al Qaeda.
The U.N. monitors, whose numbers gradually rose to about 300, were sent in to ensure that both government and opposition fighters were abiding by Annan’s peace plan.
A ceasefire took hold April 12 but only nominally, it turned out.
Violence has soared in recent days with reports of heavy government bombardment of towns and cities and chilling massacres of civilians.