The leader of the UN monitoring mission in Syria declared himself “optimistic” over the chances for peace on Monday despite video evidence showing an intense bombardment of rebellious cities by regime forces.
A separate United Nations report, based on evidence obtained from refugees, accused the regime of shelling civilian areas and at the same time stated the rebels were also breaching the ceasefire.
But UN officials said there was still a lower level of violence overall than before the ceasefire.
“We are going to organise ourselves in order to be ready to do our task as soon as possible,” Col Ahmed Himmiche, the Moroccan army officer in charge of the advance team of monitors, said in Damascus as they began their mission with meetings with the Syrian authorities. “All peacekeepers are optimistic.”
There was a lull in the fighting immediately after the ceasefire was declared on Thursday, but fighting resumed on Friday with full-scale shelling, particularly in Homs, over the weekend.
On Monday, video posted from the city online showed dramatic billows of smoke and explosions as shellfire hit.
The UN report, compiled for its Human Rights Commission by a team of investigators, said the humanitarian situation was “deteriorating” and reported shelling in Homs, and the use of heavy weaponry and machine guns elsewhere in the country.
It also singled out regular abuses by the rebels, saying: “The Commission also continued to receive reports of human rights abuses committed by anti-government armed groups engaged in fighting against the Syrian army during and after the ceasefire, including extra-judicial killings of soldiers captured during armed confrontations.”
Last night, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, whose government drove the Arab League negotiations which led both to the first peace plan, which collapsed in January, and the current one, gave a startling estimate of “three per cent” as its chances of success.
He called for the opposition to be armed – though there is as yet little sign that Qatar, which supplied the Libyan rebels, has sent weapons to the Syrian opposition.
The Syrian National Council, the main opposition grouping, has offered its support to the peace plan. But one member of its secretariat, Bassam Ishak, told The Daily Telegraph: “I believe the regime is going to try to manipulate them as it did with the Arab League observers.
“The regime will continue to exploit diplomacy to gain time and opportunity to attack opposition and weaken it. That has become their obvious tactic which has claimed the lives of thousands of Syria.”
Source: The Telegraph