Screen grab from a video showing UN observers with residents of Homs.
To the surprise of residents of the northern Syrian city of Homs, the presence of UN observers has given them a welcome respite from the army’s heavy bombings.
Syrian forces have repeatedly violated a tenuous ceasefire agreement with anti-government insurgents brokered by the United Nations last month, so the citizens of Homs didn’t expect the presence of a UN monitoring mission to make any difference. But to their surprise, it has. One of our contacts in the city tells us that the monitors’ presence seems to have prevented Syrian forces from resuming their bombardments.
The observers’ goal is to make sure the ceasefire is respected throughout the country – which is still far from being the case
. They must also make sure that Syrian authorities are implementing the six points of the Annan plan
: ending violence, political dialogue, humanitarian aid to affected civilian populations, the end of arbitrary arrests, freedom of the press, and freedom of political expression.
But even with the UN observers in the country, violence has continued. Twenty-nine civilians were killed last week in bombings across the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition watchdog group. After reports that a series of bombs had ripped through the city of Idlib, killing 20, the head of the UN mission, Major General Robert Mood, called on all parties to bring an end to the violence
According to the UN, more than 9,000 people have died since the start of the uprising; the Syrian Observatory for Human rights puts the death toll at over 11,000.
Homs residents address a UN observer.