x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UN team sheltered with antiregime forces, claim Syrian rebels

Six members of a UN observer team which came under bomb attack in Khan Sheikhun were forced to stay the night with anti-regime activists in the northwest Syrian town, an activist said.

BEIRUT // Six members of a UN observer team which came under bomb attack in Khan Sheikhun were forced to stay the night with anti-regime activists in the northwest Syrian town, an activist said Wednesday.

"The monitors had to stay behind after their car was damaged by the blast," said Khan Sheikhun-based activist Abu Hammam.

The monitors were safe after having witnessed "death with their own eyes" on Tuesday as regime forces gunned down mourners in a funeral procession, Abu Hammam told AFP by telephone.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights accused regime forces of having gunned down 20 people in the procession which turned into an anti-regime rally.

"The Syrian regime committed a massacre Tuesday during a visit by UN monitors to Khan Sheikhun," said the Britain-based watchdog.

The blast came as the observers made their way in a convoy of vehicles along a narrow street in Khan Sheikhun in the restive province of Idlib, said activists, rebels and a watchdog.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said a homemade bomb exploded in front of the convoy and that three vehicles were damaged but no casualties reported.

The incidents took place as Syria's anti-regime revolt entered a 15th month of relentless violence that has killed more than 12,000 people, according to monitors, amid growing fears that a UN-backed peace plan will fail.

"The monitors who spent the night with us in Khan Sheikhun were from Yemen, Brazil, Bangladesh, Denmark, Morocco and Holland," said Abu Hammam. "Two others managed to flee just after the blast, but these six stayed behind."

It was the second roadside bombing involving the observers' vehicles in less than a week, after a convoy in the flashpoint southern city of Daraa wounded six Syrian soldiers on May 9.

Shelling on Tuesday night in Khan Sheikhun was so sustained that media activists fled the makeshift centre they were working in. "The shelling was right next to us ... We didn't sleep at all last night," said Abu Hammam.