U.N.’s Ban: Syria must allow observers full access
Tarek Badrakhan, an activist from the battered and almost deserted Homs district of Khaldiyeh, said the regime resumed its intense bombardment of the neighborhood.
“The shelling hasn’t stopped for one minute since this morning. There are buildings on fire right now,” he said via Skype.
Badrakhan and other activists said the army appeared to be pushing to take control of the last rebel-held districts in Homs and was pounding Khaldiyeh from three sides. He said half of the nearby district of Bayada fell under the army’s control Sunday night. Troops were trying to storm Qarabees and Jouret al-Shayah but the Free Syrian Army is repelling them, he said, referring to the army defectors fighting the government.
In activist videos posted online, shells could be heard whizzing through the air before smashing into residential areas in at least two Homs neighborhoods, sending up huge clouds of smoke.
“We hope that the observers would come to Homs as soon as possible because if things go on like this, there won’t be anything left called Homs,” Badrakhan said.
Two activist groups, the Local Coordination Committees and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed the intense shelling of Homs. They also said at least six people were killed in gunfire in the central city of Hama and four in the northern city of Idlib. They also reported at least four people killed in shelling in Homs and in the nearby town of Qusair.
The Syrian leader accepted the truce deal at the prodding of his main ally, Russia, but his compliance has been limited. He has halted shelling of rebel-held neighborhoods, except for those in Homs, but ignored calls to pull troops out of urban centers, apparently for fear of losing control over a country his family has ruled for four decades. Rebel fighters have also kept up attacks, including shooting ambushes.
The U.N. Security Council approved the observer mission unanimously on Saturday.
It’s the first peace initiative to enjoy broad backing, including from Russia and China, who shielded the Syrian regime from Security Council censure in the past. Syrian officials said Foreign Minister Walid Moallem was headed to China for a two-day visit. Last week, Moallem met with his Russian counterpart in Moscow.
Also Monday, a Hamas official said a senior member of the Palestinian group, Mustafa Lidawi, was abducted over the weekend near Damascus. In the past, Lidawi had served as the Hamas representative in Iran and Lebanon.
Lidawi opposed a recent power-sharing agreement between the Islamic militant Hamas and its Western-backed rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and was seen as a supporter of Assad’s regime. Until recently, Hamas‘ top leaders were based in Damascus, but became increasingly critical of Assad’s crackdown on the uprising and decided to leave the country.
Hamas asked the Syrian authorities to try to find Lidawi, said a senior official of the group in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the contacts. Lidawi’s family told Hamas officials he was abducted Saturday.
• Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, John Heilprin in Geneva, Don Melvin in Brussels and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip contributed to this report.