Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned a bomb explosion which occurred in the vicinity of a convoy of UN observers in Syria, injuring several Syrian soldiers accompanying the delegation, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said today.
The observers, part of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), were on their way from Damascus for a visit to the southern city of Dar’a, under Syrian army escort. They had crossed a military checkpoint on the road approaching the town when the improvised explosive device detonated, shortly before midday today.
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns this attack and calls on all parties to adhere to the cessation of violence and to cooperate with, support and protect the UNSMIS observers,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
“We have no evidence to believe that the explosion was intended to target the UNSMIS convoy; however, this incident demonstrates the difficult and challenging conditions under which our United Nations observers are operating,” the spokesperson added. “It also demonstrates the volatile and dangerous situation in which the Syrian people have been living for months.”
Authorized by the Security Council last month, UNSMIS is tasked with monitoring the cessation of violence in Syria and supporting the full implementation of a six-point plan put forward by the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan.
The spokesperson’s statement followed earlier comments by the head of UNSMIS and Chief Military Observer, Major-General Robert Mood, who had been leading the UN observer delegation.
“This was a graphic example of what the Syrian people are suffering on a daily basis and underlines the imperative for all forms of violence to stop,” Major-General Mood said in an UNSMIS news release, issued after the explosion. In a telephone conversation, Major-General Mood also provided Mr. Ban with a full report on the incident.
Mr. Ban’s spokesperson noted the Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the recent increase in the detonation of explosive devices throughout Syria.
“Such incidents, in addition to the continued violence reported in many cities in Syria, call into question the commitment of the parties to the cessation of violence and may have a direct impact on the future of the Mission,” the spokesperson said.
He added that UNSMIS and the efforts of Joint Special Envoy Annan are possibly the only remaining chance to stabilize the country and avert a civil war.
While none of the observers were hurt, several Syrian soldiers from the convoy’s rear escort vehicle were injured and taken for medical treatment. Major-General Mood expressed concern for the injured soldiers, noting that members of UNSMIS were in the Dar’a hospital to check on their condition.
“We remain focused on the tasks mandated to our Mission under UN Security Council resolution 2043,” he added.
In its news release, UNSMIS said that, so far, it has 113 personnel from 38 countries, including 70 Military Observers and 43 civilian staff members, on the ground. The Mission currently operates from five bases in different parts of Syria, besides Damascus, with eight Military Observers and three Civilian staff members deployed in Homs, and four Military Observers each in Hama, Idleb, Dar’a and Aleppo.
With a total mandated strength of 300 Military Observers and additional civilian staff members as required, UNSMIS said it continues to receive new members on a daily basis as it establishes and expands its presence across the country.
“In the next two days, we will cross the 100 mark for Military Observers in the Mission,” Major-General Mood said.
The crisis in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.
Mr. Annan’s six-point plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue that takes into account the aspirations of the Syrian people, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.
Addressing the media in Geneva yesterday, following a briefing via video-link with the Security Council, Mr. Annan noted that, amid concerns from the international community over the prospects of a “full civil war” in Syria, the ongoing levels of violence and human rights abuses in the Middle Eastern country are unacceptable and the UN observer mission is possibly the only remaining chance to stabilize it. He added that while there had been some decrease in the military activities, there are still serious violations in the cessation of violence that was agreed.