Ceasefire in Syria not holding, UN admits

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The UN admitted a shaky three-week-old truce in Syria is not holding, but said the number of observers would be doubled within days, as violence erupted yesterday near Damascus and the northern city of Aleppo.

“This is not easy and we are seeing — by the action, by explosions, by firing — that the ceasefire is really a shaky one. It’s not holding,” the head of a UN military observer mission, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, said.

“But what we are also seeing on the ground is that where we have observers present, they have a calming effect and we’re also seeing that those operating on the ground, they take advice from our observers.” However, Syria’s main opposition coalition urged observers to visit detention centres, saying there had been an “escalation of arrests”.

Norwegian Major General Robert Mood talks with residents in the Arabaeen district during the United Nations observers’ visit to Hama on Thursday. The UN is accelerating the deployment of unarmed observers to Syria to ensure all 300 are on the ground by the end of May.

The opposition group yesterday called for a nationwide student strike after pro-government forces killed four students in Aleppo and arrested some 200 following anti-regime protests. In a statement, the Syrian National Council (SNC), an exile umbrella opposition organisation, urged the strike “in solidarity with students at Aleppo University.”

“The SNC calls on the Security Council to pass a resolution demanding the Bashar Al Assad regime stop the escalation in arrests, murders and torture of detainees, and demanding their release,” the group said. It also called for the observers to count the number of detained and “carry out frequent and unannounced visits to the prisons” of those locked up in the almost 14-month uprising.

The university was shut down yesterday until final exams after a night-time raid by regime forces that monitors say left four students dead and 28 wounded, three of them critically.

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