UN ends mission in Syria, 32 killed as fighting intensifies
ALEPPO DEADLY fighting rocked the Syrian city at the heart of the uprising on Monday as rebels doggedly resisted a regime onslaught launched in key northern hub of Aleppo a month ago, activists said.
At least 32 people were killed, including two children in shelling in Daraa, the birthplace of the revolution, a watchdog said, as the United Nations brought an end to its troubled observer mission in the country.
New international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, who has said he is not confident of being able to restore peace, warned on Sunday that it was now a matter of ending rather than avoiding a civil war after 17 months of bloodshed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported continued fighting on Monday on the second day of Eid al Fitr, the holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
It said clashes erupted between rebels and government troops in the southern city of Daraa after several areas were shelled, killing 15 people, including two children.
Government forces using combat helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery have also been carrying out “savage” attacks on Herak, the opposition Syrian National Council said, warning of a humanitarian catastrophe as supplies of food and medicines run out.
Fighting also broke out in several southern parts of the capital Damascus as the regime battles persistent pockets of rebel resistance, and in Aleppo province on the border with Turkey.
The Observatory said troops backed by helicopters pounded several areas of Aleppo city, including the Salaheddin neighbourhood where much of the regime’s military operations against the rebels have been focused.
The commercial capital has emerged as the key battleground of the conflict since rebels seized large swathes of the city in an offensive launched on July 20. Government officials have said it will be the “mother of all battles.” Demonstrators had taken to the streets of the capital and other cities on Sunday to vent their rage at President Bashar al Assad’s rule, as he made a rare public appearance with top officials for Eid prayers at a Damascus mosque.
“Eid is here, Eid is here, God curse you, O Bashar,” protesters in Qudsaya in Damascus province sang to the tune of Jingle Bells, according to amateur video posted on YouTube.
UN observers wound up their troubled mission at midnight on Sunday in the face of the escalating violence and a failure by world powers to agree on how to respond to Assad’s crackdown and bring peace to the strategic Middle East state.
Created by a UN Security Council resolution adopted in April, the team of some 300 unarmed observers was progressively deployed into Syria as part of then UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s sixpoint plan to end the conflict.