UN observers end Syria mission
BEIRUT UN MILITARY observers departed Damascus on Monday after a fourmonth mission in which they became helpless spectators of Syria’s conflict, and activists said government forces launched air strikes near the capital that killed two dozen people.
Helicopter gunships attacked Mouadamiya and Daraya, suburbs south of Damascus, activists and residents said, giving casualty tolls that could not be independently verified.
“It seems they suspected that there were rebels in the area,” said an activist in Daraya, speaking on condition of anonymity. Gunships also appeared to hit targets in the western Damascus district of Kfar Souseh, a housewife said by phone.
Control of Mouadamiya has changed hands several times, as have many other places in a war with no clear front lines.
“Our mission failed because the two sides did not abide by their commitments,” said one uniformed observer, who declined to be named, before seven United Nations cars left a Damascus hotel carrying some of the last members of a mission once 300 strong.
The unarmed monitors suspended operations in June after coming under fire and most have already departed, leaving a small liaison office in the Syrian capital in case a chance for a political settlement to the bloodshed ever emerges.
Battling a 17-month-old uprising against his family’s 42-year rule, President Bashar al Assad has used fighter jets and helicopter gunships to pound rebel strongholds.
Insurgents have stepped up their own attacks, hitting tanks, military convoys and security buildings.
The mandate of the monitoring mission, known as UNSMIS, expired on Sunday. The last monitors are due to leave by Friday.
After a brief lull, violence intensified during the monitors’ presence in Syria and at least 9,000 people have been killed since they arrived to oversee a ceasefire declared on April 12 by outgoing UN-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan.
The truce never took hold. At least 18,000 people have now been killed in Syria since the anti-Assad revolt began. At least 170,000 have fled the country, according to the United Nations.