Syrian authorities are halting violence when U.N. observers enter a hard-hit area, only to resume shooting and punish some residents when the monitors leave, a spokesman for the U.N. special envoy to Syria said Tuesday, citing “credible reports.”
The news came amid widespread violence in Syria, including a huge blast in Damascus and 30 people killed around the country, according to opposition activists.
U.N. monitors, who are in the country during what’s supposed to be a cease-fire, are “entering areas where there has been conflict like Homs and Hama, and when they go the guns are silent,” said Ahmad Fawzi, spokesman for Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League special envoy to the country.
“We have credible reports that when they leave, exchanges start again, that these people who approach the observers may be approached by security forces or Syrian army and harassed or, even worse, killed,” Fawzi told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.
“This is totally unacceptable, and it just underlined the risks involved not only to the Syrian people themselves and civilians — men, women, children — but also to the U.N. observers. This is a risky venture, but it is one that we must undertake.”
Fawzi said Annan wants a stronger U.N. presence with “the ability to be present in most places at the same time. With 11 or 12 monitors, you can’t be everywhere, and there are many cities that have seen destruction and have seen fighting that we need to be present at. With up to 300, we will be able to monitor more cities than two or three at a time.”
The council recently authorized sending up to 300 monitors for 90 days.
The monitors are tasked with observing a cease-fire imposed on April 12, part of a six-point peace plan laid out by Annan and accepted by the Syrian government.
“We are calling upon the Syrian government to fully implement its commitments under the six-point plan, and this means withdrawal of heavy armor from population centers, and back to the barracks,” Fawzi said. Syria is “claiming that this has happened,” he added, “satellite imagery, however, and credible reports show that this has not fully happened.”
Syria has said it would not allow “armed terrorist groups” to carry out violence. Throughout the uprising, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has blamed the violence on such groups.
A huge explosion rocked central Damascus on Tuesday, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The group had no immediate information about possible casualties.
Syria said a bomb was placed under a car and injured the driver. The attack took place in the neighborhood of al-Marjeh, state-run news agency SANA said.
On the opposition side, at least 30 people were killed Tuesday in Syria, including two who died as a result of torture, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. Two of the dead are women, the LCC said.
There were 12 deaths in the beleaguered city of Homs; seven in Damascus suburbs; three in Damascus; two in Hama; three in Idlib, one in Aleppo, one in Daraa and one in Bokamal, the LCC said.
Regime forces pummeled Homs and Hama with heavy shelling, the LCC said, just days after U.N. observers left those cities. At least 50 of the 80 deaths across Syria on Monday took place in Hama, the group said.
Tank artillery and mortar rounds rained on the city of Douma on Tuesday, said an opposition activist identified only as Fateh for safety reasons.
In Idlib, security authorities moved 20 corpses from a hospital to an undisclosed location coinciding with news of observers arriving in the area, the LCC said.
In the Damascus suburb of Douma, a huge explosion was reported, the LCC said. In another suburb, Karafbatna, several activists were reported to have been arrested, apparently at random, at a checkpoint in the center of the city, the LCC said.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, a government intelligence officer was assassinated Tuesday morning, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Syria, meanwhile, said armed terrorists assassinated a retired officer and his brother in the province of Damascus on Monday night, in the neighborhood of Fadel.
A SANA report also said the “bodies of seven army and law enforcement martyrs” were buried Tuesday.
International leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are ratcheting up pressure on the Syrian regime.
“I have signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those who abet them for using technologies to monitor and track target citizens for violence,” Obama said Monday. “… It’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come — the end of the Assad regime.”
In addition, European Union foreign ministers agreed to ban the export of goods and technology that might be used by Damascus to produce chemical or biological weapons.
The EU also agreed to ban export of luxury goods to Syria, according to a statement Monday by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“Despite the urgent need for Assad to end the violence immediately, he and his close supporters continue to lead comfortable lives,” Hague said.
Though they agreed to beef up the observer mission, Russia and China, two permanent countries on the 15-member Security Council, have vetoed attempts to take tougher action against the Syrian regime.
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin defended his country’s position.
“As a matter of principle, we believe that the U.N. Security Council is not about regime change,” Churkin told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday. “We believe that … if there is crisis in a country, the role of the international community should be to help the parties involved to find a political, peaceful way out of this crisis.
“And when we saw some of the resolutions — which included sanctions — we knew that those were resolutions which were heading in the direction of regime change by force, which would, in turn, lead only to much more bloodshed in Syria.”
The Annan peace plan calls for the government and the opposition to end the violence, provide access for humanitarian groups, release detainees and start a political dialogue.
CNN cannot independently verify reports of violence and deaths within Syria, as the government has restricted access by international media.
Syria has been engulfed in violence since March 2011, when the government started started cracking down on demonstrators who were peacefully protesting al-Assad’s regime. The president’s family has ruled Syria for 42 years.
The United Nations estimates at least 9,000 people have died since the protests began, while activist groups put the death toll at more than 11,000. Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, put the total at 10,000.