x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bomb attack 'graphic example' of Syrian daily life

Syrian military vehicle is hit in the southern town of Deraa, just moments after a United Nations convoy carrying ceasefire monitors had passed.

Major General Robert Mood, second left, the head of the UN observers mission in Syria, said the roadside bomb, which struck a Syrian military vehicle underlines the imperative for all forms of violence to stop.
Major General Robert Mood, second left, the head of the UN observers mission in Syria, said the roadside bomb, which struck a Syrian military vehicle underlines the imperative for all forms of violence to stop.

BEIRUT // A Syrian military vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the southern town of Deraa yesterday, just moments after a United Nations convoy carrying ceasefire monitors had passed.

Several soldiers were injured in the blast that occurred shortly after the UN convoy had crossed a military checkpoint on the way into Deraa.

The convoy, which was taking UN monitors, including team leader Major General Robert Mood, was travelling under Syrian army escort. Maj Gen Mood described to the attack as "a graphic example of what the Syrian people are suffering on a daily basis and underlines the imperative for all forms of violence to stop".

"For me the important thing is really not speculating about who was the target, what was the target, but it is to make the point that this is what the Syrian people [are] seeing every day and it needs to stop," he said.

The UN team had travelled from Damascus to Deraa, the city from which the uprising against President Bashar Al Assad first erupted 14 months ago. Since then, UN estimates say at least 9,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Activists said Syrian rebels killed at least seven pro-government fighters in a suburb of Damascus yesterday, after rocket propelled grenades struck a bus taking them through the suburb of Irbin. The army reportedly responded by sealing off and shelling the area.

One man was killed and three others injured in heavy clashes in the northern province of Idlib, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group.

These reports could not be independently verified.

There are now 70 unarmed UN military observers on the ground in Syria, with the number to increase to about 300 by the end of the month. The team is monitoring the ceasefire brokered by Kofi Annan, the UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria.

However, Mr Annan said on Tuesday that while the presence of monitors has gone some way to stop the bloodshed, violence in Syria is still at "unacceptable levels".

The observer mission, he said, "is the only remaining chance to stabilise the country".

"There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war and the implications of that are frightening," Mr Annan told reporters in Geneva after briefing a closed-door session of the UN Security Council in New York via videoconference.

The truce, which began on April 12, has yet to have a major effect. Estimates place the number of people killed since then in the hundreds and both anti-government elements and regime forces have been accused of not complying with the ceasefire. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that the fighting in some parts of the country now meets its definition of civil war.

In an effort to pressure the government, several western countries have imposed sanctions on the Syrian regime. However, Reuters reported yesterday that Syria appears to be trying to work around trade bans by importing large quantities of grain through neighbouring Lebanon.

Food imports are not covered by the sanctions imposed by the European Union, the United States and other western countries. However, the measures - which include asset freezes and financing restrictions - have blocked access to trade finance for Syria.

There are also growing indications that some Syrians are struggling to buy basic food necessities, as prices skyrocket. A UN document obtained by Reuters showed at least 1 million Syrians need humanitarian aid.

Yesterday a Lebanese woman was killed after Syrian troops fired across the border into Lebanon. Halima Suleiman Karbi, who was in her 70s, was shot in the head in the Bekaa border town of Qaa. Her daughter was injured after being shot in the stomach.

zconstantine@thenational.ae

* With additional reports by Reuters and the Associated Press